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Making the Case for Project ALERT

by Jo-Anne Bowen, PhD

Sometimes we’re called upon to be cheerleaders for Project ALERT.

If you hear someone in the community or in your school object to a course on drug resistance being taught in the schools, help them understand that contrary to anything they’ve heard about other drug education classes, Project ALERT does not teach students how to use drugs—rather, it educates them on why and how to resist drugs. Research shows that education is the best answer to protecting our young people from experimenting or falling prey to drug use. Teaching drug education in the schools makes sense since this is where we can reach the greatest number of young people.

Giving students Project ALERT is akin to giving them an inoculation for the flu. If the flu arrives, your body is ready to fight it. If students find themselves around drug users, they have the tools to help them resist. The course provides the opportunity to practice resistance skills in a safe situation so they have these strategies in place when they need them.

And Project ALERT comes with a bonus. We know that many students who complete the course generalize the resistance skills they learn to make decisions when faced with other risky situations, such as whether to break the law or engage in unsafe sex.

Canadian native Jo-Anne Bowen serves as the state of Washington’s Project ALERT trainer and has conducted training sessions for the program nationally since 1991. A former junior and senior high science and health teacher, she also works as a consultant in the Vancouver public schools. She received her doctorate in education from the University of Oregon.

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