Marijuana dollars used to expand DCSD’s universal prevention efforts
CASTLE ROCK – Several Douglas County schools are getting an opportunity to expand their education and prevention efforts for bullying, school violence, substance abuse and suicide.
The expansion, which includes the addition of new staff members, was made possible through a grant from the Colorado Department of Education, financed through the collection of marijuana sales tax dollars.
“While we don’t have any dispensaries legalized here in Douglas County, we are on the I-25 corridor and we know that kids’ access has expanded,” explained Nicole Maas, one of the five health and prevention professionals hired by the District.
Initially, "Team U.P.," as they are known, will support six middle schools and four high schools. The principals of all 10 schools requested the assistance.
Prevention & School Culture Pilot Schools
Castle View High School
Castle Rock Middle School
Mesa Middle School
Ponderosa High School
Ranch View Middle School
Rock Canyon High School
Rocky Heights Middle School
Sagewood Middle School
Sierra Middle School
ThunderRidge High School
The goal will be to expand the efforts started by the schools and DCSD’s Prevention and School Culture Coordinator Staci McCormack, which includes programs like Sources of Strength, kindness campaigns and empowerment and leadership camps.
“We really view ourselves as reinforcements to the already great prevention work that is going on here in the District,” Maas said. “We, however, know that the school counselors, social workers and school psychologists are very busy. They are focused on the interventional level, which is still critical. Now they have five full-time employees to augment their efforts in universal prevention.”
LEARN MORE: Learn about the many prevention and school culture programs offered by the Douglas County School District, as well as the intervention resources available to students, parents, employees and the community.
Team U.P. says the focus of their work is really about building resiliency in our students.
“Whatever challenges come their way in life, whether it is loss of a relationship, school stressors, whatever might be coming their way—when kids get stressed out and don’t have good coping skills, they turn towards those other mal-adaptive behaviors like suicide, substance abuse and school violence,” said Maas. “We really want to work on impacting kids’ hearts, minds and souls, so they have those resiliency skills. They also need to know what their sources of support are, or who they can turn to. We must break down the codes of silence that keep the kids from connecting to adults that might be of service to them.”
Each school will have a lot of latitude regarding how they implement their universal prevention efforts. For instance, six of the ten schools have chosen to implement Sources of Strength. While some schools offer the program as a club, others have worked to incorporate it into their academics. In fact, ThunderRidge is writing a course for students, based on the Sources of Strength work.
Additionally the schools will be provided access to a research-based life skills curriculum, which is also being implemented by our partners at Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health.
Team U.P. is also working closely with our School Resource Officers, the Youth Education and Safety in Schools (YESS) program, and Douglas County Youth Initiative.
While it is unclear how long the grant may last, Maas says there is certainly a need in our schools, especially now with psychological safety being part of the District’s number one strategic priority.
“We are fortunate to be able to take advantage of this seed money to get this kind of program up and running, but we are confident that the impacts this group will make and the benefits to our students and our community will be continually valued by our administration,” Maas said.