The idea for the FRESHMAN IMPACT program came after a conversation Deputy McPherson had with Pat Carlson, a family friend and federal defense attorney. Deputy McPherson was talking about the troubling trend of underage drinking issues when Pat encouraged him to be proactive and do something about it. After this conversation, Deputy McPherson decided to create a program to show teenagers the real consequences of distracted driving, alcohol and drug use. In late 2005, Deputy McPherson brought the idea to South Dakota Highway Patrol Trooper Kelly Stern. Trooper Stern partnered with Deputy McPherson and the two of them presented the idea to the Wall Schools. In 2006, the first alcohol and drug awareness program was held in Wall.
The next year, Phillip and Kadoka Schools joined with Wall School creating the Tri-County Alcohol and Drug Awareness Program. In 2009, the program was started at Douglas High and included New Underwood. Throughout its history, the program has been presented in several different counties and 32 different schools districts in South Dakota, North Dakota and Wyoming with over 2000 students in attendance.
The program consists of a multiple learning stations for students ranging from a course simulating drunk driving to a presentation showing what happens in a rollover if you are not wearing your seatbelt. These learning stations are taught by local law enforcement, fire and rescue personnel, and people that have been impacted by the effects of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The cornerstone of the program is the mock crash scene and sentencing hearing that gives students a very realistic picture of what happens at an alcohol or drug-related crash and how bad choices will impact lives for years afterward.
One of the drawing points for schools and communities is the program’s unique ability to address the individual needs of each community and school into the day long program.
The FRESHMAN IMPACT program may be taught by law enforcement and rescue personnel, but the program is completely focused on the students. Another key principle of the program is the roles of the parent in helping their children make good decisions. The FRESHMAN IMPACT administration believes that positive decisions about drugs and alcohol begin at home and encourages parents to attend and become involved in the program. If this program keeps just one of our teens from making a wrong decision, it is worth all of the time and money invested.