Updated: March 21, 2012 9:44 AM
Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School (PSO) gymnasium was packed, but you could almost hear a pin drop when hundreds of students watched real-life scenarios and learned how to buffer themselves from the gang violence and drug abuse.
In their recent presentation, off-duty police officers Const. Doug Spencer and Const. Dawn Richards didn’t sugar-coat the shocking impacts of gang violence and drug addiction on youth and their families.
The constables are members of Odd Squad Productionswhich is a non-profit group of law-enforcement officers based in Vancouver.
The film and slideshow depicts real experiences of young people in British Columbia, and many are tragic, even grisly, tales. However, others tell the success stories of those who rose above similar obstacles, and how they overcame them to lead happy, prosperous lives.
After the presentation, Spencer said the program not only educates youth on these extremely important issues, it also takes a load of anxiety off of those who have already experienced many of these aspects in their young lives, sometimes at home.
Of the dozen or more youth at PSO who stepped up following the presentation to personally thank Spencer and Richards, one was visibly shaken when she expressed her gratitude.
Noting she had grown up in the very same situation, the teen told Spencer how profoundly the mentorship they offered had both affected and helped her.
The student added she gained strength from knowing others have had the same terrible experiences, but conquered them.
“You were describing my life,” she said, battling tears.
Spencer said heartfelt comments like these pour out at almost every presentation, with the common thread being the burden lifted from these youth gained from knowing they are not alone in their troubles.
“They understand that they’re like anybody else … and lots of other people have gone through it, and they go on to prosper.”
It is peer-to-peer mentoring to the other students that carries “way more weight,” he adds.
Often students educated by the Odd Squad will see others from their class using drugs, and will counsel them directly, he notes.
“They’ll say, ‘did you just see what those guys talked about?’…. They’re reinforcing what we said.”
Many case studies in the film demonstrate the downfall of someone’s life resulting from a bad choice to take drugs or get involved in gangs, and how the youth can prevent this from happening to them.
Youth in the province are frequently coerced intentionally into drug addiction to recruit new gang members, Spencer says, adding it is often hoodlums posing as “friends” who use drugs to lead girls into prostitution or boys into gangs.
A vicious circle is perpetuated with youth in B.C. getting hooked on drugs, leading them to crime, gangs, prison violence and, eventually, the same coercion tactics that draw in more and more young people, he adds.
“It’s important to show these kids real live cases. We spoke to this kid in school; there he is lying in the street.”
Spencer says he uses harsh dialogue and the visual aids of these disturbing films and pictures to convey the serious and often fatal impacts of gang violence, crime and drug involvement.
The result is an educational experience that will leave a lasting impression on these students’ minds for a “very, very long time,” he explains.
Youth with trouble at home, learning disabilities or drug dependencies don’t have the tools to say “no” and are more likely to fall prey to gang members, Spencer adds. “We just try to give them the tools.”
More information on various programs offered for students by Odd Squad Productions is available at www.Oddsquad.com.
Original article: 100 Mile Free Press – Click here