Native American Students Take on Substance Abuse

A group of Browning Native American students will serve as role models to their middle school counterparts in an effort to reduce substance abuse.

A group of seven Native American students at Browning High School in Montana will serve as role models to help middle school students avoid drugs and alcohol with a substance abuse prevention program called “Be Under Your Own Influence.”

The program is primarily designed for seventh graders and has been found to reduce substance use through positive, future-oriented messages.

“The high school role models can connect with middle school students on sensitive issues in an authentic and meaningful way,” Principal Investigator Kathleen Kelly said in a press release. “They can talk to the younger students about how being drug and alcohol-free is a way for them to express themselves and to reach their goals.”

As a part of the “Be Under Your Own Influence” program the Native American students have already held an assembly for seventh graders and hung posters in the middle school and around the community. The role models, who are all affiliated with the Blackfeet Tribe, have more activities planned as well, like a lunch with the seventh graders and they will lead a panel about staying drug and alcohol free. The Native American students will also be handing out business cards and posters with the Be Under Your Own Influence message.

“Scare tactics and negative messages from the old anti-drug campaigns may have short-term effects, but the results don’t typically last,” Kelly said. “We’ve found that role models speak in a way that resonates with students and creates a stronger sense of community support.”

The Native American students serving as role models are all in 11th grade. They are Kimberly Ollinger, Hailie Henderson, Jolee Bullshoe, Olivia Hall, Dale Ann Cobell, Hayden Campoes, and Ashley BearChild.

Browning Public Schools is one of three communities in the nation currently participating in the peer-delivered program funded by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The program is being evaluated by Colorado State University’s Tri Ethnic Research Center.