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Penticton website engages youth on dangers of drugs and alcohol

Nikos Theodosakis and Terry Kalaski look over an on-line program - Mark Brett/Western News
Nikos Theodosakis and Terry Kalaski look over an on-line program
— image credit: Mark Brett/Western News

A father and daughter sit down to do ecstasy together and it is just the way Penticton RCMP envisioned it.

That is, sitting behind a computer clicking on the choice of whether or not Mike, a character in an interactive web story, should take them through the paces of what an evening on the drug could be like. The Mike and Vicki Project is a choose-your-own adventure story following two high school youths as they plan their weekend and attend a bush party.

“A friend of my daughter’s who goes to Pen High said she and her father did ecstasy on the Mike and Vicki site. They saw what it led to and it started a conversation,” said Nikos Theodosakis, of Mind Festival Learning, who is one of the partners who created the project. “I think that was powerful to hear that it is being used that way.”

The user is put in the shoes of the characters, with graphic novel images taking them through different scenarios and the viewer making choices and discovering the consequences. The goal for the project is to provide an easy-to-use tool that can be a catalyst for educators, police, alcohol and drug workers, counsellors and parents to engage youth in conversation about drugs and alcohol. The scenarios that Mike and Vicki experience are drawn directly from real life situations.

“If you could just pause life and consider what to do next and the potential  consequences, this resource is about that. So, hopefully when kids come to a choice in their real life they might pause enough to consider that,” said Theodosakis.

The Penticton group behind www.MikeAndVicki.ca rolled out the website earlier this week after spending almost a year designing the concept and getting valuable feedback from test groups.

“The teachers’ feedback was that an hour after we left, the kids were still talking about the resource. The teacher said that never happens. That told us that something is engaging them beyond the normal resource and not only do they like it and want to use it, they want to play parts in it. We knew then that we were on the right road,” said Theodosakis.

Access to the website and educational information on it is all free. Already the project group has seen web traffic from across the province, Alberta, Ontario, Montreal, New York and California.

Terri Kalaski, Penticton South Okanagan Similkameen community policing co-ordinator, said she wanted to make a product RCMP could use when they go into a classroom and have at their fingertips as a resource to use with a variety of age groups and on a number of topics.

“The kids using this develop a relationship with the characters. The cliché the medium is the message very much applies here. It is important this project was something kids could connect with otherwise they would blow it off,” said Kalaski.

Many students in the South Okanagan go through the RCMP D.A.R.E. program and the superintendent of schools for School District 67 believes the Mike and Vicki project can be easily implemented into that.

“The D.A.R.E. program sends the message around making positive choices and the negative impacts peer pressure has. This new resource certainly falls into that and could be a useful tool for educators,” said Hyer. “I think this works because it has a certain appeal that interests kids in social media versus parents lecturing. It is a creative way to send a message.”

Additionally, MikeAndVicki.ca is a rich resource for youth, adults and facilitators supplying links to further information on drugs and alcohol, relationships and mental health. It was funded through the civil forfeiture program that provided Penticton RCMP community policing service with $19,200 last year to focus on awareness for youth and parents about drugs. The group behind it, including Interior Health, is going to be presented to the B.C. School Counsellors conference and at the Career Education Society.

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