Article originally appeared in the Spring 2013 newsletter of the Professional Educators of Tennessee (PET).
What you are about to read is the story of a very unique and valuable service organization for youth. Though you will read about its involvement mostly in Middle Tennessee, the contact information at the end of the article will put you in touch with those who can help you reach local organizations that provide services in your area. Professional Educators of Tennessee (PET)
In 1980, a group of educators and individuals from Chattanooga, Tennessee began a program to address the epidemic of substance abuse which was devastating our young people and their families. The initial program was called Project 714. Four years after beginning in Chattanooga, the program was brought to Nashville. These early days saw the development of what would become and remains today, a student assistance program (SAP). SAP is based on the Employee Assistance Model (EAP) utilized in businesses to assist employees with issues impacting their ability to be productive in the workplace.
The early days of SAP focused primarily on substance abuse prevention and intervention. In 1988, the program was renamed STARS, Students Taking A right Stand and the SAP design shifted to address a broader array of issues that impact young people’s ability to be successful in school. This shift paved the way for much of the success that STARS has experienced these last 26 years. With these changes STARS has remained committed to providing evidence-based strategies to reduce barriers to student learning. Essentially, any issue that impacts a student’s success, such as violence, bullying, struggles with conflict and anger management, substance abuse in the home, over exposure to substance abuse and violence in the community, and struggles with depression are addressed through the SAP model.
The core strategies that have made STARS programs successful include individual and small group counseling, training of SAP Team members in the school, and the support of a STARS SAP Specialist, a contracted employee of STARS, working alongside the team in the building.
STARS has grown in many ways, not the least of which has been through the acquisition and merger of several programs in the community. The Student Assistance Program (SAP) of the Alcohol and Drug Council of Middle Tennessee, previously known as Youth Alive and Free, was acquired in 2006. In addition, the unique live puppetry prevention program, Kids on the Block, also merged with STARS to create an organization that provides a full spectrum of programs for students, kindergarten through twelfth grades, throughout Middle Tennessee.
In December 2009 STARS relocated its headquarters to the Youth Opportunity Center. This remarkable and revolutionary facility was created by a vision that began in 2006. STARS, along with Oasis Center, had a dream both simple and straightforward: bring a handful of organizations together to share space and integrate services believing that the synergy created will close the opportunity gap that exists for youth in our community.
STARS and Oasis Center were awarded the Frist Foundation’s INNOVATION IN ACTION AWARD by the Center for Nonprofit Management in 2009 for this vision and commitment to young people. Along with this, CEOs, Rodger Dinwiddie, STARS, and Hal Cato, Oasis Center, were named co-Nashvillians of the Year by the Nashville Scene for their leadership and commitment.
Also in 2009, STARS formalized a strategic partnership with Hazelden Publishing to serve as their official distribution site for all evidence-based prevention materials purchased in the State of Tennessee.
In July 2011, STARS strategically adopted three programs of the former Alcohol & Drug Council of Middle Tennessee. These programs are Youth Overcoming Drug Abuse (YODA), Service for Students Who Are Deaf of Hard of Hearing, and Recovery Support Services. STARS became a licensed intensive outpatient treatment facility for adolescents and young adults ages 15-22.
In May of 2012, the Student Assistance Program of STARS Nashville was recognized by the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) National Registry of Evidence Based Programs and Practice (NREPP) as one of three evidence-based practices to address intervention services for youth ages 6 to 17. This remarkable accomplishment is the result of over 18-years of research, service delivery and over 1 million young people and families served.
Our Student Assistance Program received one of the highest scores for fidelity and effectiveness to promote positive change. Most especially in the outcome areas of:
- Substance Use & Abuse
- Attitudes Towards Drugs
- School Values
- Social Attitudes & Social Bonding
- Rebellious & Violent Attitudes
These outcome areas remain at the very core of the work being done through STARS today! Since 1984, STARS has successfully served schools and communities by providing prevention, and intervention programs addressing bullying, substance abuse, violence, and social and emotional barriers to success. And now STARS is able to provide intensive outpatient treatment for those most in need of recovery from addiction. STARS services continue to produce consistent outcomes to include increased school attendance and grades, increased youth attachment to school and community, increased individual resilience, and reduced suspensions, expulsions, bullying, violence, delinquency and alcohol and other drug use.
In addition to these services STARS is also the leader in providing bullying prevention and intervention training for schools in Tennessee. In partnership with the Department of Education, Clemson University and Hazelden, Publishing, STARS has trained over 100 individuals across the state to implement the most researched bullying prevention program in the world, the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP). To date over 250 schools have been trained and have implemented the OBPP. An outgrowth of our work in bullying prevention has resulted in the development of the Move2Stand program a powerful youth development training process to challenge young people to be effective leaders and pro-social “upstanders” in their schools.
In November 2012, STARS was selected to serve as co-lead agency with Vanderbilt University, by the Tennessee Department of Education for the Safe and Supportive Schools (S3) Project. The overall mission of S3 project is to insure safe and supportive learning environments, thereby increasing academic success for all students.
So, what does all this mean? Today STARS SAP is a nationally scientifically recognized evidence-based practice that can be implemented in a variety of settings. Through all its programs STARS helps school personnel help their students achieve success in all areas of school life … from academics to social emotional competencies. The vision of STARS is to provide supports to help our young people embrace their full potential.
For information about STARS, please visit the website at www.starsnashville.org or contact them at 615-279-0058.
Operation Life was a great expereince to not only be apart of, but to see also. To the school, I feel it helped a lot of people realize the effects of bad decisions. Mrs. Olsen that shared her story with us made a lot of us feel thankful that we are not in her situation. With her talking to us about her incident, it makes me as a student want to be a careful driver, and support the no drinking and driving movement.
As a culture, I believe the Operation Life helped a lot of students in the long run come together and help stop people from drinking and driving. We all have someone special in our life. Thinking about our family members, friends, and teachers, I know I would not want any harm or danger to come to any of them, or anybody alone.
So, I say let’s all support this movement. After all, what are we going to do if that is us behind the wheel drunk, or being hit by a drunk driver?
On April 9th, the 11th and 12th grade students of Station Camp High School witnessed ‘Operation Life’. ’Operation Life’ is a fatal wreck reenactment. The opening scene of the play shows several students drinking and dancing at an after prom unchaperoned party. Three students intoxicated leaves the party and gets into a wreck with another car that just happened to have three of their coaches heading home from a game. The students were injured but were able to walk away from the crash. The driver and the owner of the car was both arrested. The passengers in the other car was not as fortunate. One coach died at the scene of the accident and the other two had to be transported to the hospital in critical condition.
At the conclusion of the play, Mrs. Phaedra Olsen from MADD spoke to the students about how she was hit by a drunk driver and how her life has been changed. She has lost the use of her legs and at the age of 21, she has been confined to a wheel chair.
The students were attentive and engaged as they listened to Mrs. Olsen. Her touching and moving story interspersed with humor kept the audience fixated. She received a thunderous applause at the end of her speech and students were then handed the book “The Power to take a Stand.”
As our students prepare for Prom this weekend, they have been reminded about making safe and responsible choices. The local Sheriff Department did the the Fatal Vision Goggles driving course with the students and they also had a former parent to share her story about a SCHS that lost her life before graduation due to an alcohol related crash.
The area schools in conjunction with the area Chamber of Commerce will sponsor after prom activities for our students.
The incredible Parents Supporting STARS Committee (P.S. STARS) of Brentwood High are holding another great panel discuss on the important issue of prescription and over the country drug abuse by teens in the Brentwood High School Library on Monday, March 11 at 7 p.m.
Open to parents to attend, STARS board member Tricia Spehr, who works as a P.S. STARS coordinator, said the group has gotten together a panel of experts to help parents understand the warning signs, prevention methods and the medical side effects of such abuse.
Appearing on the psychiatrist Daniel Barton, Williamson County Schools Attorney Bill Squires and Williamson County Juvenile Court Justice Sharon Guffee. Parents will have an opportunity to ask follow-up questions so experts can address topics of personal interest.
Topics of focus will also include widespread abuse of ADHD medications to improve academic performance and the law and school policies regarding students who are involved with drugs.
Brentwood High School Library is located at 5304 Murray Lane, Brentwood, TN 37027. For more information, contact STARS at 615-279-0058.
Player entry fee is $375.
Or put in an entire foursome for $1,500.
….Because it is not just a day of golf, it is a young person’s future.
Please call 615-983-6805 for further details.
The doors for the art auction and cocktail reception will open at 6 p.m.
The concert will begin at 8:45 p.m.
Please call 615-983-6805 for further details.
An amazing time-lapse video, by photographer Stacey Irvin, captured the making of an incredible peace mural with artist Andee Rudloff, STARS youth and attendees at the MidSouth PeaceJam at Belmont University on January 26.
Exploring issues of peace, violence, social justice and oppression, around 250 Mid-South middle and high school students and Belmont student mentors gathered at Belmont University for Nashville’s first ever PeaceJam in a new joint initiative of Belmont University and Students Taking A Right Stand (STARS) which paired youth and college students with a Nobel Peace Laureate, Dr. Shirin Ebadi, for community service projects and a “global cause to action” for their own communities and schools.
Rudloff headed the effort on Belmont’s campus to create a peace mural capturing in a dynamic work of art reflecting the students diverse global peace initiatives which Dr. Ebadi signed.
The day-long effort to create the peace mural is captured in this amazing time-lapse video. Take a look.
STARS extends a huge thanks to artist Andee Rudloff and photographer Stacey Irvin for sharing their time and talents with our incredible youth!
Nationally recognized, evidenced-based student assistance program, Students Taking A Right Stand (STARS), has announced the additions of new board members.
Founded in 1984, STARS assists students, families and schools with prevention, intervention and treatment services addressing bullying, substance abuse, violence, and social and emotional barriers to success. Chief Executive Officer Rodger Dinwiddie named the following community leaders to the board:
Bryan Edwards, President of Hughes-Edwards Builders, of Hendersonville, TN
Brook Meyer, Vice President of National Sales Desk, Jackson National Life Distributors, LLC, of Nashville, TN
Chris Sabis, Assistant United States Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, of Nashville, TN
Dr. Bernard Turner, Director/Assistant Professor, Belmont University, Center for Social Entrepreneurship, of Nashville, TN
A nationally recognized and evidenced-based resource for student assistance, training and professional consultation, STARS assists students, families and schools with prevention, intervention and treatment services addressing bullying, substance abuse, violence, and social and emotional barriers to success. Founded in 1984, STARS staff operate in schools and community sites throughout Middle Tennessee via STARS Specialists, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services as well as through Youth Overcoming Drug Abuse (YODA) as a licensed alcohol and drug out-patience treatment facility. Their Kids On The Block puppetry program helps educate kindergarten through sixth grade students about health and social concerns that affect their lives while promoting an understanding and acceptance of all children and adults regardless of their differences. More info,www.starsnashville.org.
As we head into Martin Luther King Weekend, it is so perfect that STARS is working with Belmont University and the Tennessean this Sunday to highlight the upcoming PeaceJam on January 25-27 on Belmont’s campus. This will be Nashville’s first-ever PeaceJam and we are thrilled to be partnering with Nobel Peace Laureate Dr. Shirin Ebadi with around 250 Mid-South youth participating.
Dr. Ebadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her work to protect women’s and children’s rights in Iran and the Middle East. She was the first female judge in Iran at the age of 24, and, despite death threats and imprisonment, continued to work tirelessly on these efforts being forced from the country in 2009 and unable to return home to see her husband. Read more of her heroic peace efforts at www.peacejam.org.
Check out the Sunday, January 20, Tennessean editorial section for guest columns on PeaceJam by STARS CEO Rodger Dinwiddie, Belmont University’s Assistant Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies and Global Education Dr. Mimi Bernard and Beech High School STARS student Bethany Strother.
Next week, Dr. Ebadi arrives in Nashville to help lead the PeaceJam where youth, along with their Belmont University student mentors, will take on a Global Call To Action. Students will be exploring issues of peace, violence, social oppression and injustice to determine what they are passionate about and hope to convert into a peace project for their own schools and communities. It could take on the form of anything from bullying prevention to building wells in Africa. In addition, the community is invited to Dr. Ebadi’s talk at 7:00 p.m. Friday night at the Curb Center with free admission. Attendees must have a ticket to enter and go to www.belmont.edu and click on “Events at BU” for ticket information.
Saturday afternoon, January 26, students will head to eight sites across the Nashville area from Habitat for Humanity to the East Nashville Cooperative Ministry to help in a variety of hands-on ways. And, on Sunday, January 27, stay tuned as we report on the exciting PeaceJam Global Call To Action. Lives are being transformed through a variety of incredible community partnerships!
Hundreds of students across the mid-state are convening on Belmont University’s campus January 25-27, 2013, for Nashville’s first ever PeaceJam. In partnership with Students Taking A Right Stand (STARS), these students will work with Nobel Peace Laureate, Dr. Shirin Ebadi, the first Muslim and first Iranian Peace Laureate in history. The students will collaborate with her to determine a peace project which they will take back to their community and it can be anything from bullying prevention in schools to building wells for water in Africa.
As you can imagine, this will be a life-changing opportunity for these area students, many who have never visited a college campus before. Student scholarships have been one of the biggest challenges for STARS. If you are interested and able to support a student for this incredible weekend of change, please contact the STARS Development Office at 615-983-6805.