After school programs aim to prevent drug use, dropouts

Whenever she walks the halls of Estacada High School, Raynell Flohr is referred to by some students as “Grandma Bling.”

Flohr takes pride in the nickname, as she is a grandmother, and is known to frequently wear jewelry.

More importantly, though, the distinction is a reminder of the impact that Flohr has had on the lives of students who had been at risk of dropping out.

Flohr is the site coordinator for Estacada PreventNet at the junior high school. Similar programs are also in place in school districts in Molalla, Sandy, Canby and Milwaukie, and are made possible by Todos Juntos. That is a non-profit corporation funded by federal grants.

Along with part-time prevention specialist Ashley Caroll, Flohr handles a caseload of students who are in danger of not making it to high school. Carroll’s caseload consists of 15 students, and her focus is on drug use. Flohr handles academic and behavioral issues and has a caseload of around 25.

As part of her duties, Flohr meets with the students individually every week and keeps files on their progress.

“We try to keep kids on target,” Flohr said.

A big part of the program includes after school programs. Homework clubs are held every Monday and Wednesday, and had around 30 students at the end of the last quarter. There’s also a dance club that meets on Mondays, a Photo Voice class on Tuesdays and Lego Robotics, where students learn the art of engineering and participate in competitions.

Other groups are specifically geared towards young women and Latinas, and a Mexican cultural dance club is being formed.

Flohr estimates that around 150 students participated in after school programs last year, most of them regularly.

Although the programs are open to all students, they are especially helpful to students from Hispanic families.

Often, their parents still speak Spanish at home, and Flohr said these programs help them make the cultural adjustments.

“When they come here, they’re in another land,” she said. “It’s a hard transition.”

Also aiding in these efforts is 20-year-old Clemente Teschua. He was hired by Todos Juntos to work with the Boys Council, a strategic club sponsored by Todos Juntos. Teschua mentors Latino students individually as well.

At one point, Clemente was an at-risk kid. But he turned his life around and has become an inspiration to other students in similar situations.

“Every kid that we defend is a potential Clemente,” Flohr said, referring to him as a “walking billboard” of a success story.

It’s never too late to turn somebody’s life around. But Flohr recognizes the value in doing so at the middle school level, where it can make all the difference in the world.

“I love this age of children,” she said. “Here, they’re still kids.”

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