In January I had the opportunity to present the Classroom Champions program for educators in St. Lucia and Grenada. I traveled with the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) to empower teachers to help promote a healthy lifestyle for their students using Classroom Champions and Responsibility.org curriculum. It was a whirlwind experience visiting both islands within a four day time period, but so very worthwhile.
On both islands, we were welcomed by teachers and officials who were excited to implement the program. The teachers there were very candid with us about their students and their difficulties. The struggles Caribbean students have versus those my own students in Central Florida are not that different really- both struggle with apathy-lack of interest or concern. Here in my class, the apathy I see is mostly lack of ambition; my students don’t seem to be concerned about their education enough to make decisions to do their school work or make good decisions to improve their life. The apathy we were told about in the Caribbean is slightly different though. The indifference seen there is that there is a lack of concern among adults over children making poor choices i.e. drinking. There are not a lot of opportunities for students in these areas so they do not have big dreams to work towards.
We heard from the teachers there that it is commonplace for their students to begin drinking at a very young age. It is not uncommon for children to be given drinks containing alcohol at a very young age. This creates issues for these children because the drinking affects their brain development at a critical point in growth. I know my students face peer pressure to drink and make unhealthy choices, however, my students are typically taught from a young age by their parents not to. One educator spoke with us about how a 9 year old student comes to school drunk on a daily basis.
I also learned that on some islands children are allowed to buy and drink alcohol at the age of 16. Even more alarming to me was that schools sponsor events where alcohol is sold as a fundraiser. We were told there are changes to the law coming soon that would prohibit this and raise the minimum age to 18.
My hope is that students in both places will learn that they have the ability to overcome their difficulties and succeed in life. The first critical step is making goals and working towards them. So many of our students find that goals are difficult for them because they don’t have a positive role model. Students in St. Lucia and Grenada were given Olympic mentors to learn from. This has been very powerful in my class. Students look to these mentors for advice and grow to consider them a friend. They don’t want to disappoint their friends so they will do what it takes to make them proud. Their mentor has big dreams for them and they learn to have big dreams for themselves too.
Kristina Jasmin is a 6th grade science teacher in Kissimmee , Florida. She is a participating Classroom Champions teacher.
*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) or any Responsibility.org member.*