By Mark Powell
Making Everyday Kids All Stars
When you meet the Breed All Stars Program staff, you meet people whose care for their students shines through. The playful back and forth exchanges between program supervisor Lauren Phelps and her students comes from mutual respect. When you meet the Breed All Stars students, you hear respectful kids talking about activities such as bowling, ziplining, and simulated surfing. You see a cooking suite equipped with seven stoves as part of a nutrition program, and even state-of-the-art washer/dryer units. Which may lead you to wonder, “What is this group all about?”
The Breed All Stars Program offers leadership skills designed for at-risk students.
In 2015, substance misuse in Lynn, Massachusetts was reaching Breed Middle School students. Community leaders grew concerned. They recognized the need to intervene with students early on. So, they created the All Stars Program to teach students about substance misuse, prevention, and leadership while creating a positive rapport with adults. Participants are selected by factors such as school attendance, discipline, academic performance and family history. The program meets twice a week using targeted All Stars curriculum. In addition, students participate in recreational activities such as gym, art, shop, cooking, computer and life skills with monthly field trips and guest speakers.
The staff-student relationship is at the heart of the program. Instructors are hand-selected because of their experience and patience. They develop a positive dialogue with students, allowing for a safe learning environment where difficult topics and experiences are openly discussed. Students view staff as mentors as well as teachers. “There’s nothing like this program during the school day,” Phelps explained. “We’re building a rapport with students and having conversations that they wouldn’t otherwise have. The program gives students a support system that encourages them to be leaders and make healthy choices.” Students also create a bond with one other. Many participants don’t enter the program as friends, but in the end they’re like family. Asked what they’d miss the most about the program, several students said, “Getting to make friends and hanging out with them after school.”
Several years ago, community leaders realized they faced an important choice. They could either watch their town slide deeper in the grip of addiction; or they could proactively act to prevent addiction. The Breed All Stars Program proves they made the right choice.
The Breed All Stars Program was a featured award winner in the 2019 Innovation Now project of the Addiction Policy Forum.
J. Mark Powell is an author, former network journalist, and veteran communications expert.