Florence Rotarians Andy Edmunds and Gerald Holley assist students
at McLaurin Elementary with the RIDDE program.
Florence’s three Rotary Clubs – Florence Rotary West, Florence Breakfast Club and Florence Rotary Club – collaborate each year with Circle Park Behavioral Health Services and Florence School District One to provide Rotarians in Drug Deterrence Education (RIDDE) to local third graders.
The program was established in 1994 by Rotary District 7770 in an effort to address the increasing amount of youth that were initiating alcohol, tobacco and other drug use at an earlier age. As a result, the Rotary District Governor challenged local Rotary Clubs to develop activities and programs to assist youth in resisting the initiation of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
Representatives from the three Florence area Rotary Clubs approached Circle Park and requested assistance in developing a program that would truly prove to not only be effective but long lasting as well. As a result, an eight lesson curriculum was developed that would be taught in 45 minutes sessions over an eight week period. The key component to the success of the program, and one that made RIDDE so unique, is that the Rotarians would actually volunteer to go into the classrooms each week and directly provide mentoring and leadership to the students. The program is currently being conducted at McLaurin and Wallace Gregg Elementary to a total of 200 third graders.
“The RIDDE program has made a significant difference with our third graders as they practice and utilize the skills they learn each week in RIDDE. We see a noticeable improvement in their conflict resolution, decision making, communication, and team building skills. These new skills serve them well as they deal with their everyday decisions not only here at school but at home as well,” Judy Tyner, Guidance Counselor for McLaurin Elementary, shared.
Since its inception in 1994, nearly 4,000 Florence School District One third graders have successfully completed the RIDDE program with nearly 200 local Rotarians volunteering in the classrooms. Though the three local Rotary Clubs provide the financial support to fund the program, the most valuable piece of RIDDE has been the actual hands-on mentoring that takes place directly with the youth.
“Of the many service projects that we are involved in our community, this one is particularly rewarding as it provides us a unique opportunity to team together with the other Rotary Clubs of Florence to combine our financial and volunteer support to address the most important resource in our community, our youth,” stated Randolph Tiller, long time Florence West Rotarian and RIDDE volunteer.
The program has been recognized by the State Department of Education, Florence School District One Partners’ in Education, the National JCPenney Golden Rule Award, International Rotary, as well as being featured in People magazine in 2000, Randy Cole, a Florence Rotary Club member and CEO of Circle Park Behavioral Health Services says “Circle Park is most appreciative of the opportunity to collaborate with two of the most critical and impactful influences on the health and welfare of our community – Florence School District One and our three local Rotary Clubs. We each share a common mission of developing the youth in our community to become not only better students but eventually healthy, happy and productive adults. The research today clearly indicates that the difficult choices and challenges facing youth today are happening earlier and earlier in their lives.