Circle Park Behavioral Health Services, Florence School District One and the three Florence area Rotary Clubs conducted a graduation ceremony recognizing this school year’s participants in the RIDDE (Rotarians in Drug Deterrence Education) program. The ceremony was held Friday, May 18 at McLaurin Elementary School and included 125 third grade students.
The RIDDE program was created in 1994 as a result of South Carolina Rotary District 7770’s Governor who challenged eighty clubs across the state to address alcohol and other drug use by youth in their respective communities through direct interaction. The District Governor recommended conducting an essay in local schools but local Rotarians representing the three area Rotary clubs, spear headed by Tom Shearin, Ernie Kirkland, Charles Young, Paul Pittman, and Dr. Ben Ward, wanted to do more. They approached Clyde Nance at Circle Park in an effort to see what could be done to create a program that was both effective and had a long term impact on students, regardless of cost and commitment of the Rotarian’s time.
By chance, Nance had just reviewed a research study on 6,000 elementary students conducted by Brown University. The study indicated school based substance abuse prevention programs could be effective and long lasting if it included several key components. These components included: eight or more sessions, taught by a professional, role modeling by community leaders, decision making and refusal skills, and hands on experiential learning activities. The research also indicated that students in the fourth grade begin to focus on the physical, social and intellectual differences in each other, and begin to start making decisions based on the perceived differences and resulting influences. In an effort to provide the necessary skills before the fourth grade, third grade students were selected for the program. At the time, prevention programs targeted mainly high school and occasionally middle school students.RIDDE was considered a unique approach to school and community based prevention. It would be one of the first prevention programs in the country to directly address third grade students.
Nance drew from a number of resources and created a ten-lesson curriculum and supporting activities to develop positive decision making skills and quickly received the endorsement of the area Rotary clubs and Florence School District One. The three area Rotary clubs, Florence West, Florence Breakfast and The Florence Rotary, agreed to provide the financial and volunteer support, and the school district provided schools and third grade students to participate. Though the curriculum was viewed as the foundation of the program, it quickly became apparent the heart of the program was the direct role modeling provided by the Rotarians. They would go into the classrooms and work directly with small groups of third graders during the forty-five minute lesson each week taught by a Circle Park staff member.
The program was piloted in its first year at Lester Elementary and quickly moved to McLaurin Elementary and eventually Greenwood Elementary. Wallace Gregg Elementary, Royall Elementary, All Saints and James F. Byrnes have participated in the program over the years. Since its inception in 1994, over 4,000 third graders have successfully completed RIDDE with nearly 200 local Rotarians actively participating in the classrooms. RIDDE has been recognized by International Rotary as one of the Top 20 International Community Programs, The South Carolina Department of Education as an effective collaborative community partnership, the JCPenny Golden Rule Award for exceptional community volunteerism and even featured in People Magazine for its commitment to the youth through community collaboration. Circle Park representative and Rotarian Clyde Nance shared, “as much as the world and the challenges facing youth today have evolved over the years, the principles of RIDDE and the importance of making good choices still rings loud and clear. We have had a great experience over the past 24 years while demonstrating the true spirit of Rotary through this effort and it has been most gratifying for us all.”