“Some things have to be believed to be seen.”
Save a Child (Formely MMSAP)
Shielding Our Schools from Drugs and Violence
The primary objective of Save a Child is to protect the lives of young individuals.
The impact of this program on the education and well-being of those receiving assistance can be lifesaving, both in a literal sense and in terms of fostering responsible, happy, and productive adults. It’s conceivable that an entire community could be spared the tragedy witnessed in a high school, such as the one in Littleton, Colorado. The age-old proverb about prevention being worth an ounce of cure is exemplified in the training provided to teachers through Save a Child seminars. We thank our fellow Masons for supporting one of the world’s most valuable initiatives dedicated to aiding distressed children.
The issues of drug use, alcohol abuse, and suicides are prevalent in school districts across the nation, affecting young people from all walks of life. While most school districts and municipalities offer programs to educate children about the perils and consequences of drug and alcohol use, very few address these problems at what could be termed the ‘entry-level’ or acknowledge the fundamental reasons many young people turn to drugs, alcohol, and suicide.
Save a Child (formerly known as MMSAP) is among the few preventative programs that address these problems at the root. This is the reason behind the success of Save a Child in various states. Masons are saving young lives throughout the nation. It is crucial for South Dakota Masons to continue supporting Save a Child, as we have the most effective program in the state for preventing suicides, drug abuse, and alcohol abuse among children. Did you know that South Dakota ranks among the leading states for youth suicides? Young people often turn to drugs, alcohol, and suicide for similar underlying reasons, as will be explained.
Depression and stress are significant contributors to poor academic performance and early engagement in substance abuse. A recent study from Johns Hopkins University reveals that depression affects 1 to 3 percent of elementary and middle school children and 5 percent of teenagers. Youngsters who experience depression or anxiety are three to four times more likely than their peers to develop drug or alcohol problems by their mid-twenties.
Children are generally aware that using drugs or abusing alcohol is wrong. However, if a child is suffering and depressed due to a dysfunctional family or other reasons, and someone convinces them that getting a little drunk will make them feel better and help them forget their problems, that child is likely to try it. Initially, it may seem to provide relief. The same goes for drugs, and thus the cycle begins.
There are early indicators of depression and anxiety in children that, if recognized, can be addressed promptly. The intervention process can be initiated long before the child comes to the attention of authorities due to behavioral issues or drug/alcohol use. This is precisely what Save a Child’s program trains teachers to recognize—the early signs of depression and anxiety. The program also equips teachers with the tools to initiate the intervention process. It’s called a process because it is a long-term endeavor, especially if the underlying cause of depression, such as a dysfunctional family, cannot be easily resolved.
In most cases, parents are not aware that their children are experiencing depression or anxiety. Teachers are in the best position to observe and identify these early signs of stress. They spend hours with children every day and can detect changes in behavior that clearly indicate an underlying issue.
In recent tragic school shootings, teachers have retrospectively mentioned that they noticed problems with the children involved but didn’t know how to help or what steps to take. These children were in so much pain that they lashed out at the society that was causing their suffering. Save a Child seminars show teachers (and counselors and administrators) how each school can establish a team of individuals trained to recognize and assist distressed children, initiating the healing process.
This program was initially developed in Pennsylvania in 1984, resulting in a significant reduction in drug use and youth suicides. Its success was so remarkable that, by law, every school in the state must now have a team of teachers and staff trained in these techniques. The program has since expanded to twenty-six states. The first Save a Child Seminar in South Dakota was held in Watertown on January 5, 6, and 7, 1999, and was attended by teams from 14 school districts. Since then, South Dakota Masons have conducted two training sessions per year, with teachers from all over the state in attendance. Teachers have provided very positive feedback, with some long-time educators describing it as the most interesting and informative seminar they’ve ever attended.
Could the schools in your community benefit from this training? If any Lodge in South Dakota wishes to have a speaker to promote Save a Child at a Lodge meeting, a committee member will be available to speak and address any questions. Please contact the Grand Lodge office.
About SD-Save a Child
The Masonic Model Student Assistance Program was developed by two specialists working in the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Larry Newman and Thomas Stecher designed a program to enable teachers to identify students at risk of suicide and in the early stages of drug or alcohol use. Building on their success, the program has been adapted and updated for use in South Dakota.
Save a Child Works in South Dakota
The program has been successfully implemented in South Dakota schools, with educators applauding the program and the Masons who make it possible. Those who have attended the workshops consistently report that when a ‘Core Team’ is established in a school and begins its work, success follows, and the problems experienced by young people decrease.
How You Can Help
To make the Save a Child program accessible to more teachers, counselors, and administrators, we must increase our voluntary contributions. Dues funds are no longer used for this program.
You may make a direct donation to SD-Save a Child by sending a check to the Grand Lodge of South Dakota. You can also contribute to SD-Save a Child through the South Dakota Masonic Charities, a 501(c)(3) corporation, which allows you to make a tax-deductible gift for a specific Masonic philanthropy, such as Save a Child, or simply to the South Dakota Masonic Charities as an investment in all Masonic philanthropic activities, with the interest generated from investments used on an annual basis.
You are always welcome to attend an SD-Save a Child workshop. There, you will have the opportunity to observe the educators and workshop presenters in action. You’ll also have the chance to ask questions of the presenters or your Save a Child Coordinator outside the session.”