By Tamas Mondovics

It is safe to say that to care for the more than 200,000 students in the eighth-largest school districts in the nation is by no means a small task and requires advance preparation.

Unfortunately, the necessity to tackle the issue of student substance abuse is real and calls for both vigilance and readiness.

In an effort to jumpstart to a safe year, the Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance (HCADA) and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) teamed up last month to give Hillsborough County School Resource Deputies (SRDs) the resources they need.

According to event spokesperson Michelle Tomao, the innovative seminar held at Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Falkenburg Jail Assembly room in Tampa, particularly focused on training all Hillsborough County middle school SRDs on HCADA’s “Safe, Smart and Successful in Middle School” curriculum.

“The curriculum emphasizes the dangers of alcohol and other drugs such as tobacco, marijuana, synthetics, over-the-counter and prescription medications as well as how to avoid peer pressure and stay drug free,” Tomao said.

The curriculum contained nearly a dozen dynamic videos along with thought provoking activities designed to help SRDs teach middle school students how to resolve conflicts and avoid the pitfalls of alcohol, drugs, bullying and negative peer pressure.

“Empowering the SRDs with these up-to-date educational resources will ensure that middle school students get off to a great start this year and in years to come,” said Cindy Grant, director of the HCADA.

Grant spoke highly of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Hillsborough Chapter, co-founder Linda Unfried, for her generous support of HCADA and MADD and the effort to work with school resource officers in developing programs to help keep youth drug free.

Unfried co-founded the Hillsborough MADD Chapter in 1983, to honor her sister, Josie DiStefano Palomino, who was killed by a 17-year-old drunk driver, who later admitted that he first started drinking while he was in middle school.

HCADA has been active in the community supporting law enforcement, the court system, schools, universities, businesses, prevention agencies and substance abuse treatment providers since its inception in 1989.

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