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.
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.
Opal’s academic life had been performance driven, which lead her to become an outstanding academic achiever. She obtained her Masters in Social Work, with a concentration in Management and Policy (MAP), from Rutgers University, NJ. She is also certified by the Network of Social Services Management, (Masters level) in Human Services Management. She has been trained and certified in Domestic Violence (15+ years) and Sexual Assault (6+ years) Advocacy and Prevention. She brings years of knowledge and experience in prevention, to this field of Substance Abuse.