A gathering at the Legion last Thursday night was a celebration of a Princeton first. Princeton took on a program led by RCMP Drugs and Organized Crime Awareness Coordinator Amelia Hayden of Kelowna and Sgt. Dave Clare of Princeton and turned it into a resounding success thanks to many dedicated individuals and organizations. Hayden found, encouraged and mentored partners to join her in an educational proposal that she strongly believes is working for youth in B.C. and ran with it. CPEC (Community Prevention Education Continuum) is a program that right from Hayden’s first words grabbed the interest and values of many with a strong firm grip.
As it turned out, the community not only was interested in this RCMP initiated program, but they embraced it with true enthusiasm. CHOICES is an intensive one day crash course intended to hit the youth of Princeton right where it will affect them most – in their desire to live a good, long and healthy life. The program was directed at the Grade 10 students of Princeton Secondary School mainly because they are at the age where a driver’s license is a new freedom that can sometimes lead to a horrific end. CHOICES stands for Choosing Health Over Injury by Caring for Every Student.
Clare and Hayden enlisted the help of emergency response teams, corporations, individuals and local businesses. The function held at the Legion last Thursday evening was a thank you to all of them. A bbq kicked off the celebration and was soon followed by certificates of appreciation and speeches. “Princeton just won GamesTown last year,” said Mayor Randy McLean, “and the community is heading in a really positive direction. We have embraced the CHOICES program and it is a really meaningful start towards changing some of the culture in our community.”
Sgt. Clare added, “I get upset when youth make comments about their reasons for abusing drugs and alcohol by saying, “it’s Princeton” like that is a reason. I want to change the mindset of these youth with positive reinforcement that can only come from this kind of mass community involvement. All of you here have my greatest thanks.”
Clare and Hayden handed out a certificate to Princeton General Hospital manager Cherie Whittaker that she was to share with the nursing staff of Jennifer MacMurchy, Sarah Antonick and Carol Tyson and with Dr. Ford who all volunteered their time to participate in the emergency room simulation of what can and will happen in situations brought on from drug and alcohol abuse. The emergency room crew walked the students through the assessment of an accident victim and the immediate care that would be administered to a patient right through to the worst case scenario of death. A coroner, paramedics, Princeton Highway Extrication, the RCMP and Abba Towing were all a part of the simulation. The students also participated in a physiotherapy session that entailed some uncomfortable props to make the youth understand more clearly the possible consequences that result from accidents.
Performing Arts students participated as victims, Weyerhaeuser and Co-Gen participated as funding partners, Scott Musgrove was brought in as the youth leader and RCMP officers Kelcy Slocombe and Anthony Pankratz brought in the legal side of accidents caused by foolish decisions. The program was thorough and impressive. It included a real life tragic story from Michele Sutter who herself is a victim of drunk driving because she made a wrong choice and got into a vehicle with an impaired driver.
RCMP Inspector Keith Pearce Operations Officer for Federal Drug Enforcement in B.C. attended the celebration. He was involved in a very successful CPEC program in a community he worked in and said that “as the program gained momentum everyone began to realize, we are all in this together.” Pearce said as the education program blossomed with more and more community involvement he began to get less phone calls in the middle of the night. “The people of Princeton have taken on a lead role and really need to celebrate their accomplishment. You are all leaders with very skilled resources coming in on different levels. You are making an investment in the future and are role models for the community.”
Princeton Secondary School principal Sandee Blair thanked all the people who became a part of the CHOICES program. “Our youth need to make healthy choices. We have an almost 100 per cent sign up for our dry grad celebration this year. The accident simulation and victim impact statement were powerful as was the hands on stuff. The kids were pretty powerfully moved by the end of the day. The potential for these kids is limitless and it starts with their own healthy choices which we are helping them to understand.”
Cheryl Ashe, RCMP Victim Services worker was thanked for her real life involvement in dealing with victims of accidents and poor life choices. The Princeton Youth Ambassadors have visited the schools and talked with the students at both John Allison Elementary and Vermilion Forks. Ambassador Taylor Kostiuk said, “I am happy we can act as positive role models for the youth. We discussed peer pressure and really connected with the kids on a different level.”
“I am pretty confident we can meet the challenge of taking on this program,” said Weyerhaeuser Manager Jeff Larsen. “Amelia came to us with lots of energy and enthusiasm and we need to thank her for enlisting us all. Kids lead a more complicated life than the youth of the past and they need our support. The attitudes around drinking and driving are changing and it is because of people like the ones in this room.”
Mayor McLean continued, “On behalf of council you have all done my heart good. We are ahead of the game in comparison to many other communities. GamesTown brought us some new opportunities and we need to encourage kids to be active and out there involved in our community making good choices and watching how to do things right. This program works and with many hands doesn’t involve a lot of effort from any one person. It is the people in this room who at the end of the day must feel pretty good when they put their head down on their pillow because they are making a difference.”