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High schoolers teach elementary school students through iDecide program

High schoolers teach elementary school students through iDecide program

The iDecide program throughout the Washingtonville elementary schools teaches fifth-grade students the consequences of using drugs, alcohol and vapes. The unique thing about this program is that the lessons are taught by high schoolers. 

Student in red sweatshirt writing.

Over 50 Washingtonville High School students are part of this program. It is run by advisors Marcela Maldonado, who is a social worker, and Eric Marburger who is a guidance counselor. 

The high school volunteers typically go back to the elementary school they attended when they were younger. The program takes place over four, one-hour weekly sessions where a new lesson is taught each class. 

“When students hear advice from older students rather than adults, especially about making the right choices, I believe it has a different level of impact,” said Christopher Barrie, principal at Little Britain Elementary School. “The fifth graders respect the older students and in turn quickly learn to respect their message of iDecide.” 

In one session, the high schoolers and elementary school students reenacted some situations they might encounter. What would you do if you heard your older sibling say they were going to a party that night and were going to drive? The high schoolers explained that it was important to tell an adult. 

Students in middle of classroom working together.

Another situation they came up with was what if you walked into the bathroom at school and there were students vaping and they offered you some. Elementary students explained the consequences of vaping to your health and to let an adult know what was taking place. 

Following the activity, they wrote letters to their future selves about why they love themselves and why they wouldn’t do drugs. 

“I really like getting taught by the high schooler,” Christopher Mantali, fifth-grade student at Taft. “I wish they could teach us all the time. They make it so fun.” 

High school students attend a presentation by The Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Council of Orange County (ADAC) where they learned about the lessons they will teach their younger peers. ADAC prepares them for potential questions students may ask, the best language to use and to listen for signs of concern. 

“The high school kids get really excited for this program,” said Ms. Maldonado. 

She said students were so excited that in the beginning of the year they were knocking on her door asking when the program was going to start. The students enjoy giving back to the younger students.  

“High school is hard,” said senior Brianna Schiaroli, “Middle school and high school changed me and now I just want to make an impact on these students, so they are prepared.” 

“High school students get to be a positive role model to these students,” said Ms. Maldonado.

In the last session of this program, students made a pledge to themselves. They took some time to individually write down the pledge and then announced it in front of their class. Students cheered each other on as they promised to continue a drug free life. Each class put their pledges into a bag and signed their signature.

“I learned a lot from this program,” said Stephen Kowalczyk, fifth-grade student at Taft. “I made a promise that I will never do drugs.” 

Student announcing her promises as high schoolers watch.
Student in blue sweatshirt and braid writing.