The Prevention Services Department offers two evidence-based programs for students in the Diocese: "Too Good for Violence" for grades K-8, and "Too Good for Drugs and VIolence" for grades 9-12.
The Prevention Services Department offers two evidence-based programs for students in the Diocese: "Too Good for Violence" for grades K-8, and "Too Good for Drugs and VIolence" for grades 9-12.
One word you hear when talking about the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Albany is family.

The schools pride themselves on being extensions of a student’s family and families look out for each other in good times and bad times, and teach each other right and wrong. And that is where the Prevention Services Department comes in!

Run by Jacquelyn Chiera, director, and Christina Mulligan, prevention educator, the Prevention Services Department teaches students about empathy, goal setting, decision making, conflict resolution, anger management, just to name a few topics, in two student specific prevention programs that are run in the diocesan schools in Albany, Saratoga and Rensselaer counties. Both programs are funded by a grant from the Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS).

“This program is evidence-based, approved by New York State for us to provide prevention services within our schools,” Chiera said. “It is uniquely designed per grade level. Each grade level has its own curriculum. K through 5 focuses on friendship building, community building, conflict-resolution skills, managing emotions, along with goal setting and decision making, especially the consequences that come along with some of our choices. Communication also comes into play and how students communicate with each other and within their community. Lastly, we focus a great deal on bullying. What it looks like, how to handle it and what to do in a situation like that.

“Middle- and high-school students also receive a uniquely designed curriculum tailored to their age group which encompasses goal setting, decision making, managing emotions, communication, relationships as well as bullying behaviors and conflict-resolution skills. We try to incorporate more real-life experiences so they can make connections as well.”
The elementary/middle school program is titled “Too Good for Violence.” Students in Grades K-5 meet once a week for seven weeks, while students in Grades 6-8 meet once a week for 10 weeks with either Chiera or Mulligan. The second program in Grades 9-12 is titled “Too Good for Drugs and Violence” and runs for 10 weeks.

“We start off with goal setting; where do you see yourself?” Chiera said. “And decision making; some of the decisions that you make now, may affect you for years to come. Then we talk about emotions. A lot of us react because of our emotions. It is dialing it back and figuring out why we are feeling this way. All of our lessons tie in together and build upon each time we see the students.

“The drug aspect, taught in high school, is explaining to students to be aware of what is around them. What is trending in the community? What do you see on the streets? What constitutes a drug? Prescription medications, how accessible are they to you? We talk about all different kinds (of street drugs) and what they do to a person, how they are highly addictive. And having them understand that the human brain is not developed until they are 25. So anything they do now with drugs can really affect them in the long term.”

One of the big ideas Chiera and Mulligan push is that of empathy and being accepting of everyone in the class.
“I had somebody last year and they had to name a few qualities about themselves and this girl said, ‘I’m good looking.’ And this one boy in the back had a snarky remark, and that is a teachable moment,” Mulligan said. “Everybody sees the world differently. What I think is beautiful, you may not. What I think is awesome and great and I want to experience it, you may not. It is viewing the world but being mindful that others see the world differently. You are not the only one here. The world is not centered around you. … Everybody is different.”

The younger grades use puppets along with their workbooks. 

“Everybody looks different than the puppet we are holding and using to talk with,” Mulligan said. “For second grade it is a dog and that puppet looks different than any other in the workbook. All those puppies look different just like everyone else in our classroom that looks different. All of these puppies are friends and we can be friends with everyone in our classroom.”
Schools that are participating in the Diocese include: Catholic Central School, Saratoga Central Catholic (middle and high school), All Saints Academy, Blessed Sacrament School, Holy Spirit School, Mater Christi School, Sacred Heart School, St. Clement’s School, St. Jude the Apostle School, St. Madeleine Sophie School, St. Mary’s School in Ballston Lake, St. Mary’s School in Waterford, St. Pius X School and St. Thomas the Apostle School. 

“There is a nice through thread for each of the grades,” Mulligan said. “If we have kids that join us in first or second grade, they pull on the information from the previous year, so I think that is nice, too. Even the curriculum itself and the workbook and materials change. There are definitely lessons that they can build upon or reflect upon from previous years when we taught them.”

Prevention Services provided a pilot program in Schenectady for Grade 1 at St. Kateri Tekakwitha School last school year. Chiera and Mulligan have a meeting later this month with New Choices, which provides the same services in public schools in Schenectady, about bringing their services into Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons School and St. Kateri.