Just Say No, James Hamilton, Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire

Overview
Together with the healthy eating project and technology project of James Hamilton Academy during 2010, there was the ‘Say No' project. However, unlike these projects, this came about, not through a challenge from the Volunteer Centre, but through the concerns of four pupils who thought drugs, smoking and alcohol were increasing risks in their community. They wanted to educate primary pupils about the potential health dangers before the move to secondary school and the older pupils relished the challenge of working with the younger pupils.

The senior pupils worked in partnership with a member of staff from the Volunteer Centre East Ayrshire who acted as a broker and also received support from the NHS, Strathclyde Police, East Ayrshire Council's Alcohol Co-ordinator and the Lighthouse Foundation - a drugs initiative programme. The senior pupils conducted research surrounding the dangers and consequences of drug, tobacco and alcohol abuse and the findings were presented using an imaginative Power-point and a series of hand-outs, quizzes and questionnaires. It was then time to take lessons to Silverwood Primary School. The primary pupils soon got to know their new 'teachers' and looked forward to the weekly sessions between January and April 2010.

Success stories
The primary pupils enjoyed the informal learning and particularly ‘being taught by young people'. In order to retain a good attention span, it was necessary for the young 'teachers' to take time and care to devise activities and training aids which reflected the language and level of understanding of the pupils. For example, drinking goggles (which simulate the effects of alcohol) and the drug kits gave the pupils the opportunity to see what drugs and drug-taking paraphernalia look like. Some of the pupils already had some knowledge, of course, and this project was able to place that knowledge in a more informed context.

The final verdict
The project will be a real success if these young people remember the positive messages as they move into secondary school and become ambassadors for the attitude of ‘Just say NO'. Senior pupils expressed the view that working on the project had helped them develop as individuals by boosting confidence and helping them gain an appreciation of the younger pupils' perspectives.

Email: Gail Cassidy, Volunteer Centre East Ayrshire.

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