Our Why

Living Skills in the Schools (LSIS) exists because drugs and alcohol abuse costs the United States more than $740 million dollars a year, and one out of four children are exposed to substance abuse in their homes. We make a difference because only 20 percent of students are exposed to effective prevention programming. At LSIS, we give students firsthand experience about the consequences of first use and help them recognize the progression of the disease. LSIS is real-life and allows for credible conversation and trust to begin with students, peers, teachers, and parents which aids in decision-making.

Our Story

Living Skills in the Schools was founded by George “Tony” Allerton in an effort to address the problem of addiction from a prevention standpoint. The program was created and authorized by the Palm Beach County School District Prevention Center in 1999, and our primary target audience began with fifth-graders as they entered their pre-teen years. Since our inception LSIS has been funded and supported by the CRC Foundation as an annual contribution and a grant that supports our programming.

In 2002, LSIS was approached by high school health departments to be included in prevention programming as increasing numbers of students (aged 13-18) were already experimenting or abusing drugs/alcohol. Our goal expanded to continue encouraging those students who had not yet been introduced to drugs/alcohol to continue on their path of good decision-making and coping skills; we also extended our messaging to urge those who were already using to understand the life-threatening consequences associated with peer pressure, denial, and the progression of the disease. In 2005, LSIS made a further expansion into middle school.

In essence we recognized that in the process of educating the children about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, we are also educating the educators – many of whom may have little to no direct knowledge about addiction. Thus, by also hearing from our presenters, these teachers become better equipped to address the issue as it arises in their classrooms.

Today, Living Skills in the Schools is approved by the Safe Schools Council to serve kindergarten through 12th grade, in addition to colleges and universities. Our program resources have expanded to include an evidence-based social-emotional learning program, drug trend education, college and coping, and our most recent parent program called Hidden in Plain Sight.

During our inception year, we made only eight presentations, followed by 52 the subsequent year. The program has grown at a rate of approximately 20-25 percent per year thereafter until the 2006-2007 school year, when it doubled. As of the close of the 2017-2018 school year, Living Skills in the Schools reached more than 30,000 students with free programming.

Our Team

Suzanne Spencer, Ed.D.

Suzanne Spencer

Dr. Spencer brings a wealth of experience and expertise in non-profit leadership and for-profit organizations to her career in community organizing and has been recognized for innovations in the field of mental health and addiction. She has served as Chief Executive Officer of Living Skills in the Schools for more than six years, leading a prevention team in their attainment of record-breaking goals and an organizational turnaround.

Suzanne has pioneered innovative practices within the health and wellness terrain by mobilizing organizations, community partners, and diverse stakeholders to inform and transform the workplace, workforce, and community. Motivated by her belief in one’s ability to find wholeness through integrated strategies of self-advocacy and organizational care, Suzanne is the visionary behind the Delray Beach Drug Task Force programs such as Project Trailblazer, What Happens After Narcan, and SUDTALKS, thus advancing the national dialogue on our public health crisis and opioid epidemic during her leadership tenure.

Suzanne enjoys fostering and leading collaborative teams with community wellness partners to focus on emergent social challenges. These collaborative teams have implemented programming that reduces the stigma surrounding neuro-diverse populations in the workplace, deploys compassionate leadership models, and designs sustainable intervention strategies to reduce long-term recidivism. With a special emphasis on processes that aid in workforce re-entry, the impact of these programs has helped build capacity in supportive workplace practices to reduce employers’ risk factors as they recruit from under-represented communities.

Her most recent initiative as co-founder of Heads Up Florida addresses vicarious trauma in school systems as a result of school personnel’s chronic exposure to students with adverse childhood experiences, school violence, and bullying.

Suzanne is an inspirational speaker, a conference headliner, addressing audiences such as Florida Atlantic University’s’ Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work and Women Empowering Women Forums, among others. She currently holds an undergraduate degree in Organizational Management, a Graduate degree in Leadership, and Doctorate degree in Education Leadership.

Barbra Quirk

Barbra Quirk

Barbra is the newly promoted Program Manager for Living Skills in the Schools. In her previous role as program coordinator, she achieved record-breaking goals and is well-versed in all aspects of LSIS values, standards of service, and quality assurance. In overseeing the daily operations of the program, she remains dedicated to serving the needs of our teachers, counselors, and school leadership by maintaining the exceptional customer service LSIS promises.

Barbra graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Florida State University. In her spare time, Barbra enjoys the beach, spending time with her dog and family, or watching a sporting event (go Seminoles & NY Giants).

Katherine Hicks

Katherine is our Prevention Liaison who is passionate and committed to the mission of substance abuse prevention. As a Prevention Liaison, Katherine works closely with each speaker on school site to ensure the quality of programming content; and consistency of the prevention message that is shared with students. 

Some of the most fulfilling parts of her role is to facilitate a question and answer session with students after each speaker presentation, and her work with school professionals to help provide access to resources. 

Katherine’s passion is building and maintaining relationships and connecting with schools throughout Palm Beach County. She is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and some favorite things include spending time outdoors, reconnecting with her family and friends, and focusing on her future. 

As an in- house Prevention Speaker for LSIS, Katherine delivers a powerful prevention message to students and serves as an inspirational recovery advocate to each and every student.