Popsicles and Prevention encourages important conversations

Popsicles and Prevention encourages important conversations

Lincoln Prevention Coalition Youth Coordinator Jessi Drew, center, helped distribute popsicles during the organization’s new Popsicles and Prevention program. From left are Anna Longpre, 11, Drew Joseph Longpre, 7, and Abigail Longpre, 9, at Lonsdale Park this week.

LINCOLN – The Lincoln Prevention Coalition, with the Lincoln Parks and Recreation Department, has rolled out a new summer program called Popsicles and Prevention, with cold treats and interactive games focused on the prevention of underage substance abuse, as well as saying no to negative influences.

Available to children in Lincoln’s free summer camp program, the goal of Popsicles and Prevention is to foster informative discussions about substance abuse prevention and to reinforce positive decision-making.

Participants start with an icebreaker, tossing a beach ball marked with questions. They start off simply, asking things such as, “what is your favorite ice cream flavor?” before moving to more in-depth discussions with coordinators.

“Do you know someone who vapes?” the leaders will ask. “Have you ever felt pressure to do something you know you shouldn’t? Have you or a friend ever felt bullied? How old do you need to be to drink alcohol? What does nicotine do to your body?”

Coordinators guide the discussion on how to effectively say no to negative influences by also asking the camp counselors for input on past experiences through their school careers.

Correct answers to questions are rewarded with prizes. All participants, of course, are given free popsicles.

On Mondays at 2 p.m. through the end of July, LPC coordinator Pamela Shayer and the organization’s youth coordinators will be bringing the program to each of the town’s parks. They’ll spend about an hour at each of the five parks, working with Parks and Recreation staff and camp counselors to engage the school-aged children.

The program staretd July 15 with Saylesville and Lonsdale Parks. Next week, they’ll move to Manville and Albion.

“In this age group there is a lot of peer pressure,” said Shayer. “We talk about role models, how to say no in a difficult situation, healthy decision-making, nicotine and vaping and bullying.”

There has been added focus on vaping in recent years as its popularity increases.

“Vaping is a huge issue,” Shayer said. “Just today when we asked how many thought vaping was cool, some kids raised their hand. Kids are becoming more and more aware of what it is, but don’t know the risks associated with it.”

At the high school level, she said the same can be said about marijuana use.

“Lots of kids don’t see anything wrong with it because it’s legal right over the border in Massachusetts,” she said.

While Shayer and the LPC work with students during the school year, she said Popsicles and Prevention is a great way for children to get to know the LPC coordinators outside of the classroom setting.

The program is being funded by the LPC as part of the Drug-Free Communities Grant.