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Cooper Students Choose to be Drug and Alcohol Free
Members of Cooper Elementary School's Above the
Influence community service organization

Cooper Elementary School's Above the Influence club took a walking field trip to view a billboard on Calumet, near Dairy Queen, which features two tombstones stating "drugs" and "alcohol" with a message that reads: "Two guys you don't want to chill with."

The billboard campaign, which was led by Sheboygan South High School SASA (Students Against Substance Abuse) and Sheboygan North High School RADA high school students, is funded by a DPI (Department of Public Instruction) Traffic and AODA grant for the Sheboygan Area School District (SASD).

"Our goal, as members of Above the Influence, is to stay above the influence of drugs and alcohol. The more students are aware of the influences around them, the better prepared they will be to stand up to the pressures that can keep them down," explained Kerri Olsen, Cooper Elementary School teacher and Above the Influence team leader. "We discuss positive options of what can be done and we try to influence our friends to make the same positive choices."

"This media was chosen because it reaches the broadest audience for the anti-drug campaign we are instituting," said Maureen E. McAvoy, Ed. D., SASD social worker and district ATOD/SAP coordinator.

Olsen provided students with a survey after the outing to gauge reactions and said that many of the students spoke with their families about the message.

"I told my older brother about the billboard," said Mackenzie V. "Then we got into the conversation about how not to abuse and how life would be if you abuse" drugs or alcohol.

Students understood that the message was clear and that making the right decision is critical to lifelong success and health.

"I learned that you make your own choices and if you make the wrong one you could be hanging out with drugs and alcohol," said Mallory M. "I think the billboard can really show people that drugs and alcohol can change a person's life…I showed it to my sister because she is still young too and it could educate her too about making the right choice."

Above the Influence is a nationwide organization that is open to students, regardless of the school they attend.

"I want them to realize that they have the power to reject negative influences and not let others pressure them into being less that they want to be. They will be able to have this group support them in middle and high school, too," said Olsen. "We talk about the Above the Influence commercials we see on TV and I have told them about the website. I think having them see it on the billboard too, lets them know I am serious and there are many others, all over the country, who feel the same way."

Seeing their organization's name on the billboard was a powerful message, helping the students feel proud to belong to such an impressively positive group.

"Just to see the students extra excited about being members of Above the Influence group put a big smile on my face," said Olsen. "I guess, it seemed like such a small thing to go see the billboard but I know that it really had an effect on the students and that was the point. I think many of them will be talking about it for awhile."

By starting a campaign to remain sober when they are in elementary school students will have more tools to fight off negative peer pressure as they get older.

"I want to give them the skills and information now to help them make positive choices now and in the future. I also want them to know they aren't alone and there are other people making those same positive choices. Above the Influence is a great way to find those people who can support them," Olsen said. "I also hope they will be a positive influence on other people."

Sheboygan Area School District Press Release
February 20, 2009