AP NEWS

Making safe choices

May 1, 2019

SPEARFISH — Fire trucks, ambulances, and a variety of other emergency vehicles could be seen in the Spearfish High School parking lot Monday. Instead of signaling an emergency, however, these vehicles signaled an annual day of interactive, preventative education through the Freshman Impact: Caught in the Moment program.

Principal Steve Morford explained that the mission of the program, organized by CORE (Community Organized Resources for Educating Youth), is working to save teen lives by providing a one-day prevention program.

“Today all students will see up close and learn through hands-on activities the possible consequences of wrong choices and the lasting effects physically and emotionally on their bodies, their families, their friends, and their community,” Morford said to the students and volunteers at the start of the day. “The program today brings together many resources to educate you on destructive teenage issues and their consequences. As a team, everyone here today will work together to promote making safe choices, preventing destructive behaviors — great information for each and every student that will go through the program.”

Morford thanked all of the volunteers, from group leaders, to presenters, to emergency personnel, to law enforcement — everyone helping to provide proactive information and activities to teach the students.

The program partners local, county, state, and federal resources to educate students, parents, and school staff, with the goal of giving young teenagers the tools to develop lifelong skills and values to make the best choices, the program’s website states.

Freshman students started the school day by being placed into groups and attended learning stations, led by professionals, focusing on the topics of seat belt use, impaired driving, mental health, social media, drugs, what first responders do at a mock crash scene, and long-term consequences of decisions, to show a realistic picture of what happens to someone should they cause an accident because of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“Your time is essential to the success of the youth of this community and our surrounding communities,” Morford said, voicing his appreciation to everyone involved.

Rick McPherson, founder of program, also thanked the students and the volunteers and reminded the students to be honest with themselves during the day.

A retired Pennington County deputy with more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, McPherson founded the Freshman Impact program in 2006 in Wall. The first year, one school and 60 students attended. In 2012, the program became a 501c3 nonprofit, and as of 2018, the program has been presented to move than 60 school districts in four states, with more than 12,000 freshman students participating.

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