DRUG USE: ODYSSEY STUDENTS RESPOND
At a hearing held in Valleyfield earlier this year, a 16-year-old admitted drug trafficker, sexual predator, obstructer of justice and probation violator, made statements that were reported in Feb. 22 Hudson/St/ Lazare Gazette. This youth, who is still awaiting sentencing for his role in the drug-overdose death of 13-year-old Stevie Reilly, dropped out of local high school classes without graduating in June 2005, having attained his 16th birthday. For less than three weeks, he was registered at a high school program called Odyssey, an alternative centre located in Pointe Claire's Valois Park Elementary School, until on September 23 he dropped out of that program as well. The following is a compilation of comments from Odyssey staff and students:
In this article, your reporters stated that the admitted drug trafficker - no doubt in a failed effort to lessen his responsibility and evade the consequences - accused "the people" at Odyssey of being addicted to heavy drug use.
As a staff, we were offended at the implications of these remarks, as they belittle the efforts and commitment of all who work here to guiding all teenagers to a better future.
Our students were also offended by the guilty teen's comments.
Students who attend Odyssey face many challenges, but they also make huge leaps and bounds in overcoming their difficulties. As people working through a period of transition in their lives, they deserve to be commended for their efforts.
They wanted to share with your readers their perspective on life at Odyssey. Here are a few of their contributions:
"I am a first year student at Odyssey high school.
To tell you the truth, when I came to this school I was very disappointed. I used to like my old school a lot. When I found out that my vice principal wanted me out of there I was really upset.
I didn't even want to go to school.
I will never forgive them for that. I know I wasn't the perfect kid but I never did drugs, deface school property or hurt anyone or anything.
I did struggle in school and, I have to admit, when it came to school I was a bit lazy. Now I go to Odyssey. I have four classes and I'm doing fairly well. I like that there are not many people in the classes, and I like the way the teachers teach here. This term I am passing all my classes with pretty high marks.
I haven't made any friends at this school and I think that the kids here have some problems; but when you get to know them they are pretty nice people.
I am happy now in a way that I left my old school because it had a lot of drugs, and I have found my real friends.
They go to school in Laval. I can't say that Odyssey has no drugs but it's up to each student to start using them or not. I have been here almost a year and I have not touched any drugs whatsoever. Saying that this school is bad is ignorant, because the school itself and the education that's going on in the school is good; but it's up to you if you want to do drugs before or after school.
The school is good; it's what you make of it that counts." "I couldn't believe what I heard when I read this article.
I am not a drug user but yet somehow I have been labeled as one. I am not a trouble maker and I have no criminal record.
I don't believe in the use of drugs and I don't believe in the accusations that have been aimed at myself, my classmates and my school.
There is no factual evidence that my school is the way he ( the teenager who pled guilty ) described it. This school is nothing more than a good environment for teens to be able to get out of high school and get jobs. It is more productive than my old high school on many levels, and I am passing what I would have been failing there.
The teachers are more understanding of the students' needs.
Finally, this school is a great place to learn; in fact, it isn't overrun by drugs and drug users.
It's a school for teens who wanted another chance at graduating." "The accused claimed that Odyssey, an alternative high school, is full of drug addicts.
I'm new to this school.
I started in September 2005 and I do admit there are drug users who attend here as there are elsewhere, but there are also other students who do not use drugs.
All I can say is that this school is giving a lot of my peers and myself another shot at a good education and a bright future.
The teachers are very patient with us and very helpful.
The kids here are understanding and respectful of the teachers, but like every human being out there, everyone has their good and bad days. The subjects we're taught are explained much more clearly and in more detail.
We do a lot of work and get it done with no problems.
This school has helped me a lot since September. I messed up badly in a regular school, Odyssey and its teachers have helped me and most of
peers get back on track." "Recently I read an article in your newspaper that reflects on the students at my school. The guilty claimed that this school is completely filled with hardcore drug addicts and that is why he wanted to leave.
In reality, there are some people I'm sure who are, but that does not mean that the entire school is. When I read this I felt somewhat insulted because I would never do any of those drugs.
The way I see it, it is his last attempt to point the finger at someone.
It is almost as if he is trying to make it sound like the school is at fault for his drug problem.
What he did was completely wrong and he is going to have to live with the consequences. Hopefully he learns an important lesson from this
experience." "I like this school the most out of all the schools I have gone to. You could have called me a problem child, and now I am not. Here, all the staff members are awesome. They actually sit down one on one and teach you what you don't understand. And it is strict here. You see people come and go, they don't take any * from you. For example, if you smell like pot, you get kicked out that day and put on alternative ( afternoon ) schedule.
Even if you haven't done anything yourself, you can still be blamed if you smell like the people you were with. These problems with drugs don't happen often. We are in an elementary school building.
Students here have some respect for that. Some of us even go upstairs to help elementary school children. We don't need to have a little boy or girl asking us why we smoke pot. Odyssey has transparent rules.
The students are advised of the school's expectations. It is easy to tell who ( among the students ) wants to be here and who doesn't." "...The one that gave the ecstasy to Stevie Reilly...has no credibility. He said that we do drugs and stuff like that but that's not at all true. Sure some of us smoke, as do many other teenagers, but we also have sides to us that have not been talked about in the media.
Some of us have come a long way and actually come to school every day. We also do our work and what the teachers ask of us. Besides, he admitted to doing most of what he said we did in the first place." "I am a student at Odyssey High school.
I have been attending this school for two years.
I have seen people come and go. The first year I attended Odyssey I noticed that the majority of the students improve in their academic and social skills. The staff monitors student progress, the environment is very structured, and the rules are very transparent. All students sign a clear contract and are therefore aware of the circumstances of breaking the rules. Odyssey is a friendly school.
All the students participate together and share a tight bond. When a student disobeys the rules, they stick out like a sore thumb.
He needs help. He had a reputation while attending our school and stuck out like a sore thumb.
Unfortunately, even after leaving he continued in his ways." As you can see, our students' school differs drastically from the 16-year-old's false portrayal.
These teens are here to better themselves, no matter what circumstances led to their referral.
A large number of our students complete their high school credits, ready for life's ongoing challenges. Some go to CEGEP, others to trade school, others to work. No matter the path chosen, they learn crucial lessons here about the value of hard work, perseverance, and the benefit of a helping hand from people who care. This is the real school that is Odyssey, and we ask that it be fairly presented.