When Cary Gallop thinks of his time with radKIDS, he feels a sense of accomplishment. As an instructor for the program at Micanopy Area Cooperative School, he said he has seen the elementary school children benefit from this safety education program. However, as he leans against his Silver Ford Escape with a license plate spelling out “RADKID”, he explains he believes the program is much more than that.
“radKIDS teaches children to avoid violence in any way possible and to physically resist it if necessary,” Gallop said.
radKIDS, a nationwide children safety education class, may be implemented in more elementary schools around Alachua County following new proposals in Newberry and High Springs. The program teaches children skills like bullying prevention, defense against abduction and drug prevention. In Alachua County, the Micanopy Area Cooperative School is currently the only elementary school that has this program.
According to radkids.org, the program has measurable success in its participants. An evaluation done in 2019 showed improvements in students self-worth and empowerment, physical skills and strength and feelings of safety in their own lives. These new skills are mirrored in the Micanopy Area Cooperative School’s program.
As Gallop explained, the program follows several phases before children complete it. Throughout this training, children are taught physical skills to help fend off an attacker and communicative skills such as calling 911 or telling teachers about potential abduction attempts. Children must complete these tasks, called simulations, to move through the program. Gallop said the skills children learn and demonstrate through a final simulation are exciting to parents.
“The whole cafeteria is packed with parents,” he said. “You actually have to ask them to leave after the simulation is over.”
Gallop said these situations help encourage children to respect their own judgment.
“If they’re offered drugs, if they’re offered a free toy if they’re offered to be lured to a car, they have to learn to stand up to adults they were normally taught to respect,” he said.
Gallop has dedicated his life to helping this cause.
“1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted before they’re 18,” he said. “Those statistics haven’t changed in 30 years. They have to change.”
Following recent budget allocations, other local cities have considered putting these programs into action. Newberry is set to implement this same program within its elementary schools.
Newberry Opioid Task Force Chair Joy Glanzer said this is a new milestone for the city.
“The radKIDS program empowers kids to be their own person and to learn how to say no,” she said.
Glanzer acknowledged that the program goes far beyond preventing drug abuse in young children. However, she said that this part of the program is important, particularly in Newberry. Glanzer said this is just one of the proposals she has pushed following the creation of this force.
“We’re tired of drugs killing our kids, so that is why we created the Newberry Opioid Task Force,” she said.
Recently, Glanzer was able to speak about the program in front of the High Springs City Commission. She is hopeful that her presentations will encourage other areas of Alachua County to implement this program within their schools.
Newberry mayor Jordan Marlowe has supported this program throughout its development. He said noticeable changes like this are needed to counter Alachua County’s drug and mental health issues.
“In 2018, we found out that Alachua County has the highest rate of adolescent suicide in the state of Florida,” he explained.
Marlowe said statistics like these ones led him and the Newberry Opioid Task Force to radKIDS. He is hopeful that the success of this program nationwide can be applied locally.
“radKIDS is that science-driven and data-driven organization that helps kids recognize when there is a dangerous situation and seek help,” he said.
Glanzer hopes that other areas will see this success rate.
“We want to start in the rural areas,” she said. “And from there, we’re hopeful that Gainesville schools will see the success out here and want to implement these programs.”
With her recent presentation to the High Springs City Commission, Glanzer hopes they will act quickly.
The money she hopes High Springs will use comes from the American Rescue Plan Act, which allocates a certain part of its funding for drug abuse and mental health. Glanzer adds that Newberry distributed $15,000 to fund radKIDS. She is hopeful that other cities may consider a similar approach in finding program funding. She said putting these programs in schools throughout the county, particularly those in rural areas, is instrumental in combatting these abuse issues.
“This is a one-time opportunity,” she said. “These funds won’t be available forever, so we want to take advantage of it.”