CLARKSVILLE — Clinton-Massie Middle School seventh- and eighth-grade students are invited twice a year to attend Project TRUST, a student retreat program created to empower young people to make their world a better place in which to live. The program helps empower them to take a stand against the abuse caused by drugs, alcohol and violence present in their communities that will often encroach that into schools, churches and families, leaving young people feeling isolated and lacking a sense of belonging.
One of many organizations working to reduce this abuse is Project TRUST whose mission focuses on TRUST — Teaching Respect, Understanding, and Student Teamwork.
When students are empowered through trust, they are less likely to abuse themselves or each other. Project TRUST empowers youth by teaching them to find their voice in shaping their communities.
While attending an intense three-day leadership retreat, students form six family groups consisting of two high school counselors and seven to eight middle school students. They establish a community contract, learn to function within the community and are accountable for living within the community. They learn to understand each other, work together as a team, and make responsible choices.
Working within their family groups, students build relationships with peers outside of their normal social circles. They communicate with each other and participate in community building activities that encourage the building of trust and respect while breaking down social barriers.
“As teachers we are always amazed and astonished at how close the smaller family groups within the community become in such a short period of time,” said Mike Adams, seventh-grade social studies teacher and Project TRUST advisor. “We were especially blessed this year to have high school students act as counselors. Their ability to lead and connect with middle school students and serve as positive role models will help to bridge the gap as middle school students look forward to transitioning to high school.
At the end of the retreat, Project TRUST leaders leave their trust families and return to their home school to share what they have learned about respect and trust and continue to foster relationships outside their peer groups in hopes of supporting each other and creating a sense of belonging.
East Clinton Local staff who led the group were Laura Lynch, Steven Sodini, Andrew Ramsay, Bryce Martin, Andrea Davis, and Laura Sizemore. Special thanks go to Carol Foell, Jim Boland and Camp Kern.
Project Trust was originally established in 1992 as a collaboration between Wilmington College and Roger O. Borror Middle School, with the assistance of the Northeast Regional Center for Safe and Drug Free Communities. The program is now funded by the Peace Resource Center of Wilmington College, participating schools, community businesses and organizations, and generous individuals.
Information for this article was contributed by Diana Miller, who coordinates communications for several area schools.