New program in St. Johns County teaching students about good decision making, dangers of drugs, violence

Deputy Daniel Barnhart of the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office was busy Wednesday trying to get control of a fifth-grade class at Liberty Pines Academy.

The students in the room with him were part of a pilot program called “L.E.A.D,” or Law Enforcement Against Drugs and Violence.

“When you hear the word consequence what do you think of?” Barnhart asked.

“It makes me think of just you do something bad then your consequences, you get a punishment like you lose your iPad. Which actually happened to me,” said one of the students.

The program will be taught to 200 students in St. Johns County and they’ll learn about the dangers of drugs and violence.

The fifth graders at Liberty Pines Academy are on their second week of the eight-week program.

Week one was goals and this week consequences and decisions.

“Decisions make you get in less trouble,” said fifth grader Nolan Yolk.

The program also teaches students about effective communication, conflict resolution and resiliency, something Deputy Barnhart said is important.

“Basically what we try to do is teach the kids that making smart choices having goals, surrounding yourself with good people will then help you as you have to make those crucial decisions as you get older when you’re confronted with drugs or alcohol,” Barnhart said.

The goal of this program is to make sure that when students walk out of those doors they can take this information and bring it back to their friends who aren’t in that class.

That’s something Bristol Masters is planning on doing.

“Whenever I go to middle school because not other classes in this grade are doing it. I will tell my friends that weren’t in this class about it,” Masters said.

“Anytime we can take the learning of our students beyond the academic realm and really teach about the character and decision making, I’m all about it,” said Liberty Pines Principal Donny Hoessler.

Hoessler said he loves giving his kids the opportunity to be in this program because they’ll be prepared for the future.

The principal said he hopes to open the program up to all fifth graders next year.

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