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October 15, 1999

Huron -- A nation-wide program that trains school teachers how to recognize the early signs of students at risk of becoming involved with drugs, alcohol and other self-destructive behavior, such as violence or suicide, graduated its second class of school personnel after a three day seminar held here in Huron on October 12 through 14.   Nationally, thousands of teachers receive this training every year. The behavioral problems addressed by the teachers are occurring at all economic levels of our society, from the most affluent to the most impoverished. The seminars are sponsored and funded nationally by the fraternity of Masons.

Teachers are in the best position to recognize a child with problems of a self-destructive nature. Teachers observe a child for hours every day and notice the changes in behavior that signal trouble, according to Arthur Parsons of Watertown. Parsons is the state administrator for the program in South Dakota. Parsons and Dr. Larry Holmes, an educator from Brookings, witnessed the success of the program in California and convinced South Dakota Masons to sponsor the program here.

The nationally accredited program, hosted seventy teachers from 14 South Dakota school districts. Hotel
accommodations, food, instruction and materials were all funded by the Masons. The seminar was followed by a reunion of teachers that attended the same seminar held last January in Watertown. The follow-up session is held so that multiple school districts can compare notes, share problems and discuss their successes and mistakes in applying techniques learned at the seminar. Schools and teachers must respond to the ever-changing problems that come with a changing society and this forum has proven to be extremely helpful to school districts everywhere.

Local schools and teachers attending the Huron seminar include_______________________________




The training course is known as the Masonic Model Student Assistance Training Program. It is a fifteen year old program that is utilized in 23 states. It is one of the few national programs that directs efforts of prevention at a psychological level, depression and stress being major factors in turning young people to drugs, alcohol, violence and suicide. South Dakota is known to be well above average in the percentage of attempted suicides among school aged children. The course includes specific instructions on what teachers and school districts can and cannot do when a troubled youngster is identified. They also learn to use other community resources for helping troubled children. Teachers, working in teams, learn how to intervene in the troubled student's behavior patterns and direct the student back to more normal activities.

SDSU recognizes the program by awarding graduate level credit for teachers attending the seminar.

Masons plan to have at least one seminar here every year. The next session is scheduled for the Rapid City area in early October of 2000. Schools and school districts wanting information on MMSAT should contact the Masonic state headquarters in Sioux Falls, 800-462-7661 or Arthur Parsons in Watertown, 886-3129.