A life-changing program is shifting the course of youth in your backyard. It’s called Drug Education School (DES), and it’s making a meteor-sized impact on parents and their children throughout Charlotte and Concord. But they aren’t the only ones feeling the effects.
Earlier this year, Absolute Advocacy received North Carolina’s approval to offer and conduct DES classes. Approval was a big deal because up until then, only one state approved provider serviced Mecklenburg County.
Chances are, you don’t know much about Drug Education School. In fact, most parents have not even heard of it until their minor faces their first misdemeanor drug violation.
What Is Drug Education School?
North Carolina statute 90-96 allows first-time drug offenders to defer prosecution in an effort to educate and correct behavior through Drug Education School. The court will determine if the offender qualifies for the program, and if it is offered they will be required to complete it within 150 days from the date of referral.
Since starting the program, one of the things that has struck us is how young many of the participants are. At any given class, we see a wide range of ages from pre-teens to teens and young adults. Many are minors, and their parent or guardian is in charge of ensuring they complete the program.
What do you as a parent need to know about Drug Education School? First, you need to be aware that not all so-called schools are legitimate.
The Growing Problem of Fake Drug Education Schools
Only two approved providers are operating in Mecklenburg County; Absolute Advocacy and the McLeod Center. No other providers in the county are approved by the state of North Carolina.
State approval is a crucial factor to investigate when choosing a DES provider. The purpose of the program is twofold; it educates and provides help for first time offenders AND successful completion of the program allows for the charges to be dropped.
Unauthorized companies are not legally able to drop charges. They are not recognized by the legal system, which makes their program a waste of time and money.
In an alarming trend, several unauthorized providers have popped up all over Charlotte and the surrounding area. Many are charging exuberant fees for their unapproved services, and some are offering class options that effectively make their service a scam.
The DES program is mandated and regulated by the state of North Carolina. Unfortunately, many consumers do not know this and fall prey to pop-up providers. Here’s what you need to know:
- A legitimate Drug Education School provider can only charge $150 for the program. Any company charging more is a fraud.
- Drug Education School is a 5-day program that encompasses 15 total hours of time. Classes cannot be taken online and cannot be completed in more or less than 3 hours per day over 5 days. Any company offering online course completion or a condensed/prolonged program is illegitimate.
- Only two providers are approved to conduct Drug Education School in Mecklenburg County: Absolute Advocacy and the McLeod Center.
- Only two referrals are available for Drug Education School. You guessed it, referrals are only available to Absolute Advocacy and the McLeod Center. We can refer participants to the McLeod Center if their location is more convenient and vice versa. We cannot refer to an illegitimate company lacking state approval.
- Completion of the program allows for the drug charges to be dismissed after one year IF you work with a state approved provider, pay the class fee, attend all 15 hours of education, and satisfy any other court conditions.
Now that you have the blueprint of a legitimate Drug Education School, let’s discuss what you can expect from our program and why we are calling it a life changing experience.
Absolute Advocacy’s DES Program
We’ve been conducting drug education classes for roughly six months, and the impact of this program on its participants has been astonishing. The program is piloted by two counselors who have been with us since the start, Laura Beaver and Chabre Mingo.
When prepping to conduct the program, our instructive counselors were filled with anticipation. Chabre wanted to impact people. Her initial focus was on taking the program’s material out of book form. She wanted it to feel real and draw students in, motivating them to learn more.
Laura found herself focusing on who would walk through the doors. She anticipated a mixture of ages from high schoolers to adults ages 20 to 50.
The challenge would lie in making the material interesting so that students walking out of class would make life-changing decisions. Tasked with the duty of influencing the program’s participants to stop smoking marijuana or give up drinking, the first major hurtle would be to educate participants about the dangers of drugs.
“[The first day of Drug Education School] made me see I was a leader,” recalls Chabre. “I can reach people! The students were in need and in tune. They were more into [the material] and ready [to learn] than I anticipated. During that first week, I built a rapport.”
“I was very surprised that kids think it’s all okay,” Laura shares. “Even some adults think it’s okay to smoke marijuana, that it’s a natural herb. But the truth is so much of it is artificial today. Some of these kids are on medication to calm them. They smoke weed because it calms them down and they perform better. They think it’s a replacement. It’s tough.”
The Youth Entering the Program
If there’s one thing that has left a lasting impression on us since starting the DES program, it’s the youth entering it. It is shocking to see how young and uninformed some of the students are. We have seen participants as young as 14 who are convinced there is nothing wrong or unsafe with smoking marijuana or doing hard drugs.
Our instructors have had to mold their approach to connect with the youth in the program. Both Laura and Chabre take a reality check approach, which they find impactful and productive.
“I share personal experiences, which [the students] like,” says Laura. “I dig deep and share from my family, things I’ve seen personally. It makes a huge difference.”
“Nothing is better than reality,” says Chabre. “Personal experiences that exemplify dangers, what’s out there, and how influential it is are [tools we use]. I try to tap different resources, like music. I think music is the most fundamental way to reach people.”
What Parents Can Expect
What can you as a parent expect if your minor completes Drug Education School with us? We are true believers in helping people. Our passion drives our every action, and our team’s zeal for helping people make positive life changes is visible in everything we do.
We see DES as the gateway to a better life for the program’s participants—for your child. You can expect:
- An increase in drug education and a potential decrease in your child’s drug usage.
- Expect your child to think differently; they won’t be perfect, but they will leave the program with a different outlook.
- We explain the expense involved in your child’s drug charge from court costs to classes so they understand the monetary resources you are dedicating to getting them help.
- You may be surprised, even angry, to learn what your child is doing with drugs, and that’s okay. We are here to support you, too.
How You Can Support Your Child
Support is necessary if your child is to take full advantage of the second chance before them. DES gives them the opportunity to wipe the slate clean, and our goal is to help them keep it clean. We support every student after their class ends. They can always come to us for help resisting and staying away from drugs.
But your child’s successful transformation hinges on support. While our counselors do a lot to give them needed backing, from learning about their dreams to helping them pursue something positive in life like college admittance, your support as a parent is key.
“Students struggle,” says Chabre, “and without support they don’t make better choices.”
“Some [parents] are involved,” says Laura, “and some, we don’t know what they’re doing to help decrease [their child’s] usage.”
What we do know is youth with positive parental support make the most dramatic and permanent transformations.
“They change their life and stop smoking marijuana,” says Laura. “They even have their friends stop. They actively work to change their environment.”
Drug Education School Changes Lives
We have seen amazing changes for dozens of youth. We have seen youth give up drugs and alcohol. We have even seen them leave behind negative friends and work to change their attitude.
But the impact of DES has also hit in unexpected ways. Our team collectively gets together to help each other so we can always provide the best possible care for our clients. Since starting the DES program, we’ve seen our team grow even closer. We are more than professional colleagues; we are family.
We’ve connected with the youth and adults in our local community. It’s changed how we see our sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, parents, and even friends.
“I have a daughter. [Thanks to DES,] I go home and I increase my parenting skills,” says Laura.
We’ve sat beside parents on the emotional rollercoaster they ride as they seek help for their child. We’ve experienced the heartbreak of parents scraping together their last pennies to ensure their child attends Drug Education School, and we’ve celebrated with them when their child emerges carrying a new outlook on life and substance abuse.
“The last day of class is always emotional,” says Chabre. “I thank every student for the impressions they’ve made on me. They teach us just as much as we teach them. I thank them for letting me share their world for a few days. And we are always here whenever they need us. That connection we make, it doesn’t just end. It’s always there.”
Nothing compares to the power of passion, compassion, and education. This combo is the secret weapon of Drug Education School; it’s what our team uses every day to elicit change.
Enrolling Your Child in Drug Education School
If your child has a drug related charge and the court has deemed them eligible for Drug Education School, contact us.
For many families, the court costs and DES fee are hard to pay. Do not be misled by companies charging more than the state mandated fee of $150. Instead, invest in a team dedicated to change both today and tomorrow.
We’ve shared our story. Are you ready to share yours?