by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, October 2014) Hispanic Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Program (Hispanic UMADAOP) provides an excellent example of how a community organization can have a positive influence on students in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD). Hispanic UMADAOP has been offering an alcoholism and drug abuse prevention program in Cleveland schools for many years.
Through Hispanic UMADAOP’s Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs (ATOD) prevention education programs many Cleveland students on the Near West Side have had the opportunity over the years to learn life skills that will help them to avoid abusing drugs and alcohol. For over twenty years, Hispanic UMADAOP Prevention Specialist Nereida Diaz has taught the ten to twelve week classes in neighborhood schools.
Diaz teaches a program with a curriculum designed for grades 6-12 and another curriculum for the younger children. A description provided by Hispanic UMADAOP says the curriculum is “designed to assist students to develop the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to discourage and resist use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs and to change behavior.”
The three part curriculum consists of Lion Quest, “a comprehensive youth development and prevention program”; Positive Action, “designed to teach positive, real-life concepts that help students feel good about themselves”; and Human Relations Media which shows “relevant and compelling videos about the lives, choices, issues, health and well-being of today’s teenagers.” Hispanic UMADAOP Interim Executive Director Nelson Ramirez says last year Diaz served between 1,200 and 1,300 children in the program.
This semester the program is being offered at Buhrer Elementary, Luis Munoz Marin, Joseph M. Gallagher, Lincoln West High School, Max Hayes High School and Lake Erie International High School. The program is also being taught to youths at the St. Paul’s Express after school program at St. Paul’s Community Church, and to female adults at the Northeast Pre-Release Center.
Diaz says she often has children in the Niños program for elementary school children and sees the same children again years later in the program for junior and senior high school students. She is able to see the changes in the children as they grow into young adults.
While Diaz doesn’t want it to happen, she recently had a former student in her class at the Northeast Pre-Release Center. Diaz says the young woman was crying and telling her how bad she felt for not living the lessons taught in the prevention program, “Ms. Diaz, I let you down,” the young woman told her.
In addition to the prevention classes, Diaz is involved in partnership with the Northeast Ohio Medical University in serving as an advisor to the youth led prevention education group called the Health Professional Affinity Community (HPAC) at Lincoln West High School. The youth group has developed a peer-to-peer Power Point presentation, says Interim Director Ramirez.
Hispanic UMADAOP is also involved in the Friends of Lincoln West, where Ramirez represents the organization. Friends of Lincoln West’s mentoring committee recently helped form a program with MetroHealth Medical Center, which will provide education, mentoring and internships to 28 Lincoln West students this year.
Hispanic UMADAOP participates in a neighborhood coalition formed by Neighborhood Leadership Institute and the Clark Fulton MyCom Committee. This group has developed a program for parents that is called Hidden in Plain Sight. The program is designed to help parents identify signs that their children are abusing drugs or alcohol, says Ramirez. Initially the program will reach out to parents at Lincoln West High School and Luis Munoz Marin. The group also plans youth and adult forums and a community service day on the Near West Side, says Ramirez.
Hispanic UMADAOP also runs a Youth Center on Scranton, which offers after school and summer programs for area youth. Youths participating in the program enjoy arts, crafts, sports and a meal. Ramirez says this past year 328 different kids had at least one meal at the program.
In addition to its prevention programs and Youth Center, Hispanic UMADAOP also offers residential alcoholism and drug abuse treatment for men and women. Its program Casa Alma has space for nine men; Casa Maria offers space for six women.