When Pierrefonds Comprehensive High School teacher Deborah Nagy’s students assembled on Monday morning, they had a different kind of class than usual.
Instead of English class, the Secondary 3 students were given a workshop on drug education and prevention by Pavillon Foster, a rehabilitation organization that provides education on drug abuse to people of all ages, but especially teens.
It was all part of the kickoff to FLASH, a five-day student awareness initiative that is taking place at PCHS all this week.
FLASH stands for Friendship, Love and Sexual Health, and is a program geared toward encouraging safe behaviours on several fronts, including an ongoing anti-bullying campaign. The FLASH theme for 2012 is “stand up and speak out,” with the goal “to make PCHS a safe school for all who attend regardless of race, ethnicity, belief or sexual orientation.”
Jo-ann Centauro, one of the co-ordinators of the event and a psycho-educational consultant for PCHS, explained:
“Three years ago, PCHS was chosen for a pilot project to educate students on safe behaviours of all kinds from the prevention point of view.
“At first, it focused primarily on sex education – and this has continued – but it has also expanded to include other issues facing students as well, such as drugs, alcohol abuse and bullying. Increasing awareness is really the only effective way to encourage healthy behaviours.”
For the first time in its threeyear history, FLASH is bringing speakers directly into the classrooms to address students.
Several West Island and greater Montreal groups are taking part in FLASH this week: Al-Anon (on alcohol abuse issues); ANEB (on anorexia and bulimia); CALACS (on sexual assault prevention and education); Pavillon Foster (on drug prevention); GRIS (on demystification of homosexuality); and LGBTQ (on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer issues).
In addition, a police officer is speaking to students about Internet and technology safety, CLSC nurse Judy Kelly is teaching sexual education, covering topics that include healthy relationships, STIs and contraception information (adapted to age and group level), and Sheila Southon is giving a workshop on wellness and stress-reduction. And throughout the entire week, the library is featuring books, information and activities all related to anti-bullying.
On Friday, the week will culminate with a general assembly to hear FLASH’s keynote speaker for 2012, McGill University’s Bill Ryan, a professor of social work and an internationally recognized expert in the field of sexuality, sexual education, homophobia, health and gay men’s health.
And finally, to celebrate the week, all PCHS students will gather for a huge group aerial photograph with their “stand up, speak out” theme as a symbol of their commitment to stand against any form of intimidation, bullying or violence. Most of them will no doubt also be wearing the special wristbands made specially to promote this message.
Two student ambassadors of the FLASH initiative will certainly be wearing the wristbands: Secondary 5 students Felix Robitaille and Vince McCarty.
Robitaille said he thought the top-three issues for the week might turn out to be “anti-bullying, drugs and LGBTQ issues.”
As for McCarty, he said it will be interesting to see how the week goes.
“Sometimes there might be apathy, but there is encouragement, too.”
CLSC nurse Kelly, who is also school nurse at PCHS as well as a co-ordinator of FLASH, summed it up this way.
“The big picture on this is to open the door to students with an open-minded approach, and this includes teachers, too – and ultimately, hopefully, parents as well. Involvement on the part of parents on these issues would be so effective. We’d love to have them get involved too.”