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Dawson to pilot drug program
Middle school focus of prevention plan
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After piloting the CHAMPS elementary program for the state in 2003, the Dawson County School System is one of five counties in the state set to pilot a similar program at the middle school level.


Lt. Tony Wooten of the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office took the initiative to develop the CHAMPS Middle School program for the Georgia Sheriff’s Association with help from a number of people in the community who share the desire to see young people succeed.


CHAMPS, or Choosing Healthy Activities and Methods Promoting Safety, was developed by the Georgia Sheriff’s Association as a reaction to the state’s former drug resistance program that did not focus on regional problems.


“We wanted to get away from it and toward something else that would be more beneficial to the kids, which Sheriff Billy Carlisle was in full support of. He wanted to have whatever was best for the kids,” Wooten said.


From the inception of the elementary school CHAMPS program, which is now taught in 48 counties in the state, the goal was always to offer a similar program at the middle school level, when children are faced with making choices that could follow them the rest of their lives, Wooten said.


“This age is when they are going to have to worry about drugs in the middle school,” said Sheriff Billy Carlisle. “Middle school is an age where the kids are kind of out there lingering. They can go either way, because they are too old to go spend time with Mama and Daddy and they’re too young to go out with their older friends on the weekends. They’re in the middle and are going to follow whoever has the strongest lead.”


Wooten spent the last six months devising the program, writing lesson plans, meeting with counselors, administrators, other officers and coordinators with the Georgia Sheriff’s Association to develop the program.


“Several people along the way gave me their input on what needed to be taught; counselors, associate superintendent of schools, teachers. We sat back and talked about what they were looking for, about what problems they thought they had and what topics we needed to teach to help them,” Wooten said.


For nine weeks, seventh grade students in Dawson County, and four other pilot school systems across the state, will take the CHAMPS Middle School program as a portion of the curriculum taught by Champs intructors from the sheriff’s office.


“We were proud to be a part of the pilot program for the elementary school program and we couldn’t be more proud to be one of the pilot school systems for the middle school program,” said Dawson County Associate School Superintendent Keith Porter.


“Tony Wooten and the other officers that teach CHAMPS need to be commended for this work for these students,” he added.


Georgia Sheriff’s Association CHAMPS coordinator Brent Loeffler echoed praise for Wooten and those involved in putting a rush on the program.


“It’s Tony’s dedication and determination that got the program going this year. He took the lead and never looked back. It’s people like him and the CHAMPS instructors and Sheriff Carlisle that are giving these kids a chance,” Loeffler said.


The CHAMPS Middle School Program begins with a pre-test to identify what the students retained from their CHAMPS classes in elementary school.


“It’s a hard test. They’ll all score real low on it,” Wooten said.


Dramatic videos, outlining ways to talk to students about drugs and other influential topics will also be sent home with the students throughout the program.


“I’ve got to thank Deven Mattheus of Forever Saved Productions who made these very powerful videos for the program,” Wooten said. “I want to thank everyone that helped me.”


E-mail Michele Hester at