AHS students to receive intimate look at rehab | AspenTimes.com

AHS students to receive intimate look at rehab

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer

They made a pledge to be drug-free, but a group of Aspen High School students will soon be spending a long weekend in a drug rehabilitation center.

Nearly half of the high school’s Heroes class ? a unique health education elective that focuses on drug prevention ? are traveling to Phoenix this weekend to visit a center for adolescent drug and alcohol abusers.

But the 24 students will do a lot more than simply tour the facility. The students, mostly underclassman, will actually be checked in to the center by school district Superintendent Tom Farrell, who also serves as the instructor for the Heroes program.

“We didn’t think the kids would benefit very much by being observers,” he said. “But they won’t spend the night there ? they’ll spend the whole day and then their evenings going through the exact same program that the kids in the rehab center go through.”

Check-in begins this morning, with students continuing their stay at the center on Friday and Saturday. AHS visitors will spend the weekend attending counseling sessions and meeting with the center’s residents, Farrell said.

The weekend ends in a “one-on-one” session, during which students and patients pair off to discuss the rehabilitation process. Students will come face to face with peers who almost lost their battle with addiction ? some, Farrell said, as young as 13.

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Though the process seems frightening for your average 15-year-old high school student, each Heroes participant has been adequately prepared, Farrell said. Counselors from the center travel to Aspen each fall to give a small presentation on its operation before inviting the kids for a visit.

“We have two of the therapists come up here and spend a week preparing them, so when the kids go down, they’re not panic stricken,” he said.

This field trip will actually be Farrell’s fourth with his students. He’ll make an additional trip this spring when he escorts the remaining 30 Heroes students on their own trip to the rehab center.

Though the trip follows the recent expulsion of an AHS student who admitted using cocaine on school property, the events are not connected. Heroes is actually a well-established course at AHS, Farrell said.

“It’s not reaction ? this is a proactive class,” he said.

The students will return to school on Monday.

This year, Heroes is up to 54 students ? its highest enrollment rate ever, Farrell said. The class meets every day during the lunch hour. Students come to Farrell’s office to discuss anything from drug prevention to goings-on around the school.

The class allows any AHS student to participate, Farrell said ? the only catch is that each student must promise to remain drug free. The class is taught in conjunction with the Valley Partnership for Drug Prevention.

Heroes students also perform a variety of tasks around the district, including acting as drug-free mentors for middle schoolers and taking the occasional health class.

Field trips are also encouraged for the class. Aside from the annual visit to the rehab center, past classes have also attended a national drug education conference in San Diego.

[Jennifer Davoren’s e-mail address is jenniferd@aspentimes.com]

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