Camelot Education’s Richey Academy Promotes Drug-Free Living During Red Ribbon Week
Experimentation with drugs and alcohol has become common among teenagers. The latest Centers for Disease Control statistics show that nearly 20 percent of high school students have been offered, sold, or given drugs on school property, in the past year. Self-medicating is a fact of life; which is why late last month Camelot Education’s Richey Academy in Houston took part in Red Ribbon Week, which had its origin, nationally, as a tribute to a fallen Drug Enforcement Administration special agent in 1985.
From Oct 21-25, the entire school encouraged its students to accept a lifetime free of drugs and the emotional and social chaos drug use brings.
“It is important to spread the awareness of being drug-free to our young students and encourage them to remain drug-free,” said Richey Academy’s principal, Natasha Edmond. “Some of our students were referred to us because of encounters with drugs, so it’s important to us, and for them, to see and participate in events that exemplify a drug-free lifestyle. We have to lead by example.”
Edmond said that among other daily events, students and staff projected the drug-free life message by wearing red on Monday to show their commitment to living drug-free and dressing as soldiers or superheroes on Tuesday to mark War Against Drugs day.
Richey Academy student Jayden Williams, 13, said he participated because he is striving to become a leader at school. “You don’t have to impress people by doing bad things to look cool. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing and become a leader. I want to stay at Richey Academy; I love the teachers here.”
“We encouraged our staff to participate and have conversations with their students about drug abuse,” Edmond said. “Having an open, candid dialog about drug abuse is very important for students. Therapists know that teens have different cognitive abilities than adults, and most students who use drugs are attempting to compensate in some way for feelings of depression, family problems, or possibly some mental illness. That’s why we invited all of our counselors to fully participate in the event as well. Many of our providers are skilled in different forms of therapy, and we’re thankful for the honest conversations they have with our students.”
Many of Camelot’s schools are in traditionally underserved communities, where opportunities are often limited, and where students grapple continuously with difficult societal issues, including exposure to drugs. At Camelot Education, the path to learning starts with building a rapport with the student and understanding their unique needs. Relationships are the bedrock of each Camelot Education school. Each day, at every school, Camelot teachers and staff members ask: ‘Did you eat breakfast this morning? Do you have everything you need to be successful today? How are you doing today?’ And remind them that, ‘Whatever you need, we are here for you.’
“We reinforce that on a daily basis,” Edmond said. “It’s part of our culture. To build trust, you have to build rapport. Many of our staff members come from the same environments as our students. They faced the same challenges growing up, and the students understand how relevant that is; being able to speak with an adult who is being genuine with you. If you’re phony, these kids see it right away. You can’t lie to them. Because we take the time to build strong relationships and connections, our students feel safe with us, welcome and supported. We keep the one-on-one dialogs going.”
Richey Academy student, Precious Guerrero, said participating in the one-on-one dialogs during Red Ribbon Week was a way for her to vent her feelings and express what’s going on in her life. She also said the portion of the event she liked the best was the basketball tournament.
“I learned many things [during the Red Ribbon Week] but most important was to treat others how I want to be treated. I liked the [basketball] tournament the best because it was a chance to meet new people that help and care for us,” she said. “I’m thankful for coming to this school, because I learn every day.”
Richey Academy partners with Spring Independent School District to provide services for students who were removed from their home school for serious behavioral infractions, are often behind in coursework, and risk not matriculating or graduating on time. Richey Academy establishes a trusting, safe environment where students can experience educational success. The school supports a shift in perspective toward a growth mindset, teaches coping skills and replacement behaviors, and helps remove trauma from students’ academic equation so they can focus on the hard work of learning. Students enrolled at Camelot Education’s Richey Academy will return to their home schools with improved behavior, attendance, and academics.