‘We want people who care,’ says counselor

Volunteers sought for new drug and alcohol program

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012 1:52 a.m. CDT

Lutheran Social Services of Illinois is looking for a few good men and women to support a new drug and alcohol resistance program in Lee and Ogle County schools.

“We want people who care,” said Jamie Kanady, counselor for Project LEAD, or Leaders Encouraging Abstinence from Drugs.

The new, grant-funded program will serve youth in fifth through 12th grades. It aims to equip students with assets that will help them not only resist drugs and alcohol, but also build character and become leaders among their peers, she said.

Project LEAD is similar to the D.A.R.E. program in that it teaches kids to resist drugs and alcohol. But Project LEAD focuses on building character and essential life skills, and it takes place over several years, rather than in a series of classroom lessons, she said.

“We’re really looking at the whole child and what that child needs to make it,” said Kanady. “We can only do that with the help of the community.”

The hallmark of the project is community-based coalitions that determine the needs of youth in the community and implement appropriate asset-building and preventive strategies, she said.

“We’re here to influence kids,” Kanady said. “We’re here to make a difference.”

Coalition members could be parents, clergy, law enforcement officers, educators and even students, whether leaders themselves or those who could benefit from such a program. Members need no previous experience or specific qualifications other than a caring attitude, she said.

“We want to know what these communities need,” Kanady said. “We don’t want to go in and assume we know what’s best for them.”

Project LEAD aims to help students feel comfortable and connected in their communities.

“We’re always looking for ways to connect these kids to an agency or whatever resources we can find to help ...” said Janet Kacvinsky, principal at Nachusa Campus School, which serves students with substance abuse problems, anxiety and other issues. “This is great because we can connect these kids with resources that they need that we don’t have right now.”

The coalitions – one each for Lee and Ogle counties – likely will meet monthly, starting in January. They will gather data from the Illinois Youth Survey and network with school officials, law enforcement and others, then implement services and strategies.

Project LEAD is slated to be in local schools by 2014.

To help

Project LEAD is seeking members for its community-based coalitions.

Anyone interested in joining the Lee County coalition should contact Doug Heise at Doug.Heise@LSSI.org or 815-284-7796, ext. 2329.

Those interested in joining the Ogle County coalition should contact Jamie Kanady at Jamie.Kanady@LSSI.org or 815-284-7796, ext. 2050.

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