SADF leaders strengthen program by addressing integrity issues

Juniors+Joe+Fuller%2C+Jeff+Arnell+and+Judson+Martin+lead+a+canga+line+at+a+Safe+Drug+Free+sponsored+middle+school+mixer+on+Jan.+20.

Maddie Schoessel

Juniors Joe Fuller, Jeff Arnell and Judson Martin lead a canga line at a Safe Drug Free sponsored middle school mixer on Jan. 20.

On March 15, the lunch room was abuzz with rumors of hypocrisy in the Safe and Drug Free programs at West. A controversial exposé revealing that a minority of drug free leaders engaged in drug and alcohol use elicited strong emotions from students, teachers and administrators alike.

“I was upset with the previous article because I know there are people out there that do not know what the drug free programs are all about, so this story immediately put the programs in a bad light,” junior and Peer Teacher Demi Ferretti said. “It was just kind of negative. It got people talking. I remember when it was published and our whole class was talking about it.”

District SADF leader, Diana Tate, urges students to come to sponsors if they are having an issue maintaining their pledge rather than remaining in the programs.  

“Evidently we haven’t got across to them that we are not going to judge you if you can’t keep the code of conduct; we are not going to blackball them from other activities. We just hope they stand on their integrity and they come to someone on the SADF leadership and say ‘It’s just not going to work for me,’ because it hurts the program so terribly when people are hypocritical,” Tate said. “It hurts the program terribly when middle school students see a role model and then later find out those role models have been drinking or smoking marijuana.  It only takes one of those students to cast a bad shadow on our whole programs.”

One common misconception held by students is that if they ever make a mistake and break their pledge, they will be immediately dismissed from the programswhich is simply not true.

I feel like I have a responsibility to do this, because younger kids just need a nudge in the right direction. They are just so impressionable, so if you teach them good things at a young age you set them up for a good path and a good life”

— Logan Williams

“By owning up to something he or she has done wrong, it demonstrates that the student wants to take steps towards reconciliation. However, there is a consequence [to breaking the pledge]. It does not means that we are going to completely kick you out, but there will be some things you have to do to stay in,” SADF sponsor and West High Physical Education teacher Tommie Rowe said. “There is a two week period where they couldn’t be involved with anything we are doing so if it was pre-middle school field trip, it might mean you cannot go down and teach.”

Students and sponsors agree that the program’s strength lies in the example high school leaders set for middle school students; however, Rowe believes obstacles arise when high school students do not live up to the standard they have set for themselves and middle schoolers are aware.

“The last article was upsetting to me because these students have been down at the middle school, and now if the middle schoolers hear or see that [some of their high school leaders are not keeping their pledges] they will think it is okay for them to do the same,” Rowe said.

Junior Logan Williams’ experience as a High School Hero, Peer Teacher and three time member of the Now and L8R panel discussion has helped him discover the importance of teaching these values to middle school students.  

“The maturity level is so different even between eighth grade and freshman year. I feel like I have a responsibility to do this, because younger kids just need a nudge in the right direction. They are just so impressionable, so if you teach them good things at a young age you set them up for a good path and a good life,” Williams said.

Williams’ values originate from his upbringing and the morals his family has instilled him since he was a child. 

Disclaimer: Students pictured above are not quoted in the article. Seniors Grace Miller, Claire Dreller, Jamie Gardner and Connor Gately toss a can to each other during a TryPod field trip.
Disclaimer: Students pictured above are not quoted in the article.
Seniors Grace Miller, Claire Dreller, Jamie Gardner and Connor Gately toss a can to each other during a TryPod field trip.

“From a young age I have been raised to respect other people, respect myself and if something is supposed to be done I want it to be done the right way. Like when they have us sign our contracts saying that we want to live that drug free lifestyle, it actually means something to me; it is not just a piece of paper,” Williams said.

Not only does the Parkway feel strongly about promoting a healthy lifestyle, partners in the greater St. Louis community also are advocates for young adults making safe decisions.

“We are now pairing up with Mercy Medical to make a handout regarding e-cigarettes it will be given to the SADF leaders and other high schoolers. We are just trying to get the word out about e-cigarettes and their effects,” Tate said. “We also partner with American Lung and American Heart Association, and they have help and rehab so students can contact them if they are seeking help for themselves or a friend.”

Students and sponsors are now brainstorming ways to edit the application process and other aspects of the programs to continue building upon its well-regarded reputation.

“Maybe we could require students to get recommendation letters to include on their applications? Or maybe some signatures from meaningful adults. Then you are not just breaking the pledge, you are breaking someone else’s trust,” Parkway Superintendent Dr. Keith Marty said.

Dr. Marty strongly believes that students’ peers are the most influential when it comes to confronting this type of issue.

“When students confront their peers that is when change happens. Being a leader is a whole different level of expectation, and it can be hard. But it really does make a difference,” Marty said.  

Drug use is not just a problem for Parkway West High School, but a prominent issue throughout the Parkway school district.

“This topic comes up in Parkway at all levels. Even school board members have talked about the compliance of students to these type of pledges,” Marty said. “This issue is not isolated to West High. I think this is something we as a district are facing and should be striving to make better.”

Sponsors of SADF programs agree that the success of these programs can be attributed to the students leaders modeling a safe and fulfilling lifestyle for the peers.
“Our hope has always been to build an army of SADF members. We admire, need and expect a code of conduct 365/24/7 from our leaders and through them the safe and drug free message will spread,” Tate said.