By Merry Bradshaw
As principal of Hughes Middle School, Maurice Perkins is always looking for ways to prevent students from considering risky behaviors like drug or alcohol use. Realistically he notes, “If I tell students not to do drugs, they won’t listen to me. But a peer can be a more positive influence.” So, in the spring of this past year Mr. Perkins learned of a grant available from the Nevada Community Prevention Coalition (NVCPC). It didn’t take long for a plan to develop.
The NVCPC is a state run, non-profit organization with a mission to “promote collaboration toward individual, family and community wellness across the lifespan in rural Clark County, Nevada.” The programs they fund are intended to reduce the incidence and prevalence of substance abuse and its consequences. Mr. Perkins was excited to find a grant source to fund a plan he believed would be helpful to many students in his school and have long lasting effects.
He knew Utah State University conducted Leadership Camps for students. The university worked with Mr. Perkins to tailor a program to meet his goal of building the leadership capacity of the student attendees. A total of 48 students and 6 adults attended in late May 2015. The students that were selected were not necessarily those already in leadership roles in the school, but students Perkins believed would gain new strengths from the two-day experience. He hoped that by increasing their leadership skills they would be able to positively affect other students in the future.
During the two day Leadership Camp at Utah State, student attendees from 6th thru 8th grade spent time maneuvering a challenge course and participating in various team building activities. In addition, they listened to first-hand accounts from speakers that had experienced the pitfalls of drug or alcohol use. “It was a very impactful two days,” Mr. Perkins said.
When asked about the results from the program Mr. Perkins said that many of the students who went through the program are much more involved in school-sponsored activities either at Hughes or Virgin Valley High School. Some of the attendees are now part of the school’s All Star Program. He went on to say, “Building leadership capacity among more and more students is only part of the solution, but it is an important start.”
The program costs $8,000 and Perkins currently has $3,000 towards sending more students through the program this coming year. He hopes to raise the additional money needed from local businesses.