By WENDY JEFFCOAT, T&D Staff Writer
Sunday, May 07, 2006
Question: Severe acne is caused by what drug? Answer: Steroids.
This was just one question posed to William J. Clark and John Ford middle school students during the final taping of the “Health Factor” drug education game show Wednesday at Claflin University.
“Health Factor” completed its first season with a showdown between the top two middle schools in the area that participated in the program — WJCMS and JFMS — with William J. Clark’s three-student team coming out on top and each member rewarded with a Sony PlayStation 2.
Tony Ackiss, community outreach coordinator with the Tri-County Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, said the game is a way to get the 6th-grade participants thinking and learning about different drugs and the effects of using them.
“They’re learning and they don’t even know it,” he said. “We just wanted to do something with the kids to raise awareness. They’re learning more about drugs, and that’s my job in prevention — to try to find inventive ways to do it.”
Ackiss said the idea for the show evolved from an ongoing partnership the commission has with Claflin. “Health Factor” follows the long-running “Teen Talk” program, which debuted in 1997 and featured students from local high schools, middle schools and Job Corps discussing everything from drugs to technology to relationship abuse.
Claflin University mass communications students — under the direction of CU’s video studio director Michael Fairwell, who produces and edits the show — direct, host and tape “Health Factor,” allowing the students valuable hands-on experience in their chosen field of study.
Host and Claflin mass communications student Kendall Givens-Little said the show is an excellent idea.
“I think it’s helped them a lot,” he said. “It’s made them a lot more aware. I think they are going to stay away from that route (drug and alcohol use) with the knowledge they’ve gained from the show.”
Players for both teams said they have learned quite a bit studying the questions they were given weeks before the contest and finding the answers to them.
While teams are supplied with what will be asked, they have to find the answers themselves, promoting the learning and retention process that much more.
“It’s been teaching us about a lot of drugs that I really didn’t know until now and what they can do to you,” said Clark’s Bhanu Shekhawat.
Teammate Joshua Goodwin said he learned interesting tidbits such as years ago, cocaine was an ingredient in Coca-Cola and that cocaine comes from the cocoa plant.
“We learned that we are not supposed to do drugs because we learned what they can do to us,” said Samantha Carr, also a Clark team member. “Drugs are harmful for you and can do certain things to your body and affect the way you act.”
While they did not win the overall contest, members of the John Ford Middle School team received gift certificates for a free meal at Ryan’s Family Steakhouse and knowledge that they will carry with them for a lifetime.
Johannah Wright said she learned about the chemicals that are in drugs and the slang street names for drugs and alcohol.
“We can teach it to other people,” she said of the knowledge she gained participating on “Health Factor.”
Teammates Abriyan Milligan and Tiyauntis Collins said they, too, will share their knowledge with peers.
“We learned how to say no to drugs and alcohol,” Milligan said. “And don’t accept things from everybody, even if its somebody you know.”
Cheering on their students were the school’s principals, Lana Williams of Clark and Carlita Davis of John Ford. Both were proud of the information their kids have picked up as a result of the game show.
“I think it’s definitely helped to raise their awareness about what drugs and alcohol can do to your body and your life,” Williams said. “It allows them to share with their peers and it fosters team work and cooperation among members of the team. It helps also to be able to make good choices. We all know peer pressure is something they face every day, especially middle school students.”
Davis said “Health Factor” brings schools together in the spirit of competitiveness with the goal of teaching students about the harmful side effects of alcohol and drugs and the importance of making good choices.
“It forces us to put our best foot forward so that we’re able to compete globally,” she said.
Greg Carson, spokesman for Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5, said it’s encouraging to see children competing and gaining information about things that can harm their bodies.
“With knowledge comes power, and the power they have is to say no,” he said.
Calhoun County Schools superintendent Ken Westbury said by televising the competition, awareness can be raised across the board with adults as well as with children.
“Our team represented us well,” he said. “Hopefully none of them will ever end up on drugs. We would certainly have these hopes for these young ladies.”
“Health Factor” will air at 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 10 on Time-Warner Cable channel 7.