Christmas is definitely the season for celebrating, and CHAMPS students from Naomi, Gilbert and North LaFayette elementary school did exactly that in December as they received recognition and awards for successfully completing their 12-week program.
The CHAMPS program was started and developed in five pilot counties by the Georgia Sheriff’s Association in 2004 as an expansion of the former DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program. Choosing Healthy Activities and Methods Promoting Safety, or CHAMPS, has now replaced DARE programs in Walker County and other Georgia schools in recent years and has more than 1,000 graduates in Walker County alone.
“This was the sheriff’s vision to have a more rounded education as far as drug education, life skills and safety,” Walker County Sheriff’s Sgt. and CHAMPS coordinator Terrence Hambrick said. “CHAMPS encompasses more life skills training. We have 20 modules in the program, ranging from how to deal with bullying and peer pressure to things like gangs, and even Internet, boating and hunting safety.”
Some of the course programs include alcohol awareness, drug awareness, choices and consequences, positive alternatives, vehicle safety, and seat belt usage. Program topics, subject matter and activities include Internet safety, bullying (gangs, violence, peer pressure, choices, and consequences); alcohol; drugs (marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, and prescription drug abuse); outdoor activities (ATV safety, fishing, hunting and firearm safety); and a CHAMPS project (an essay/poster contest).
The program’s mission statement is “to provide an educational program for Georgia’s youth, which provides guidance, and the skills, ability, and knowledge to be safe, healthy, and happy, in preparation for a successful life.”
Hambrick said that mission is really a long-term goal and mission. “Working with the school system, we’ll be monitoring these fifth-graders through the eight years until their graduation from high school.”
Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson reinforced that mission emphasis, telling the CHAMPS graduates to buy a frame, to frame and hang their CHAMPS graduation certificate on their bedroom wall, and to look at it daily until they replaced it with their high school diploma in eight years.
The mission is long, yes, and sometimes rocky, but Hambrick, a nearly 30-year veteran of law enforcement and an ordained minister, says the mission is worth the commitment and effort. “My reward is seeing the children doing well and years later as productive citizens.”
The dynamic officer easily builds rapport with students, earns their respect, and sparks enthusiasm in the CHAMPS program and in building a strong, productive future. His impact is as much or more through his example as through his message, for his students know that he is genuine, and that he genuinely cares about them, their families, and their future.
Truly, Officer Hambrick IS a CHAMP leading his CHAMPS.