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N.O.V.A. program gives area 6th graders tools to deal with negative influences

By Myrna Trauntvein
Times-News Correspondent

N.O.V.A. Principles is a program created to help youth in the community.
Sergeant John D. Shepherd, Nephi City Police Department, presented an overview of the program he is teaching, with the permission of Nephi City Council members, to students in the district.
"I teach N.O.V.A. in the sixth grade," said Shepherd. "We give the sixth grade students as much information and as many tools as possible before they go to Jr. High."
The mission of N.O.V.A. Principles is: "Nurturing youth to seek out positive Opportunities, internalize good Values, and to accept Accountability for their choices in life."
Students who participate sign a contract and then they take another contract home for their parents to sign.
"I want them to be happy to be part of the program," said Shepherd.
N.O.V.A. assists parents, families, and communities in protecting youth from the potentially devastating effects of illegal drugs, violence, and negative media exposure.
"I used to do the DARE program," said Shepherd.
While he liked teaching that program, this one was better. The focus here is in developing self-esteem and self-values.
Each student receives a N.O.V.A. knot and a folder. Rewards and prizes are used to teach and students repeat the moto: "Illuminating the path to excellence."
The mascot is the lone wolf named Polaris, after the North Star. The N.O.V.A. Lone Wolf is a person who has the strength to not follow the crowd when they choose to do wrong.
"We have an activity each week," said Shepherd.
The second lesson has to do with drug facts with the lesson teaching some basic facts and effects of tobacco, marijuana, alcohol and inhalants.
Shepherd then had council members try his "drunk goggles" which he uses with students to show them what the world looks like to someone who is drunk. He usually plays a bean bag toss game with students, first without the goggles and next with them to give students the idea of the chemical changes that take place in the brain.
He also gives students wrist bands, water bottles, flashlights, sticky hands, highlighters and pencils which go with various lessons.
"Each week I try to find something they have to earn," he said.
Students learn about Windows of Opportunities which teaches that they must learn to accept responsibilities for choices and actions and study the situation and the cause and effect.
They learn about True Colors, that what is right is right and what is wrong is wrong.
They learn about self esteem, heroes, anger management, teasing/bullying, fighting Vs self defense, the media (which consists of three parts), and meet a challenge.
Week 13, is graduation.
"My favorite lesson is True Colors," said Shepherd.
In this lesson students learn that some lifetime decisions such as honesty, integrity, respect for self and others and things will determine success or failure.
For the lesson on self-esteem, he said, he gives students a pencil. Even though the pencil is chewed up and broken that does not mean that it still can't create something great.
"Everyone has problems," he said. "It is how you deal with your problems."
On the lesson about heroes, he said, the Boiling Frog Analogy is used.
"Do you know what that is?" he asked.
Blaine Malquist, resident, said: "If you put a frog in cool water in a pan, place the pan on a stove and turn on the heat, and warm the water up slowly the frog will stay in the water until it is too late."
The frog will die. Like the frog, students learn that there are harmful and dangerous things in this world that can become very harmful over time.
When it comes to anger management, he said, he will play a game with the class except that he concentrates on just two or three people. He gives them all the candy and the other students, even though they try to play, are excluded.
"Why did this make you upset?" he asks students.
There are three stages of maturity, he said. Stage one, people do things for selfish reasons, stage two, they cooperate even if they don't want to, stage three people do the right things for the right reasons.
Which wolf are you feeding?
They then talk about friendly teasing as opposed to bullying.
The next three lessons, he said, are all media related.
"There is not really any difference between people who push drugs and people who push pornography," said Shepherd.
The N.O.V.A. Pack is a challenge where students forgo T.V., movies and video games for seven straight days.
Safe internet guidelines are also taught.
In each classroom, said Shepherd, he puts a question and answer box. A student does not have to sign his/her name to the question but if they do, they know that the question will be kept private. That way he is able to help those with problems.
There is a T-shirt that goes with the program but, in order to get one, the student must pay $4.
"At the very end we have graduation," said Shepherd.
At some point, he said, he tries to bring in a drug dog because the students enjoy that experience.
"This is the best thing I have ever been involved in, by far," said Shepherd. "I appreciate your giving me this opportunity."
He would like to see the county involved in the program so that the students in Mona could participate, he said.
He is working with Red Cliff students now and, after Christmas, will begin the program with Nebo View Elementary.