Sociologist’s Program Gives Dallas-Area Teens a Heads Up to Success
Six-Session Class Designed to Prevent Substance Abuse, Put At-Risk Youths on Course to College
UT Dallas student Artie Goldman shared some of the obstacles he has faced in his life as he taught a Heads Up class at Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership High School in Dallas.
A program developed by a UT Dallas sociology researcher and her students is helping high school students steer past the pitfalls of substance abuse to pursue college degrees.
Called Heads Up, the six-session class is led by University students who share their experiences, including struggles and setbacks.
Dr. Carol Cirulli Lanham, assistant dean of undergraduate programs and senior lecturer in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, and her students designed the course for the Dallas-based nonprofit organization Focus on Teens, which serves homeless and at-risk students in the Dallas and Fort Worth independent school districts, as well as teens who are not enrolled in school. The class was adapted from a RAND Corp. program for at-risk youths.
“Instead of just telling students to say no to drugs, we are encouraging them to say yes to a future, a life, college,” Lanham said.
“Instead of just telling students to say no to drugs, we are encouraging them to say yes to a future, a life, college.”
Heads Up has been taught in six Dallas high schools, reaching over 800 students, since it was first offered in 2015. Classes cover the science on how drugs affect the brain and the body and open conversations about how drug use can affect people’s lives. High school students are encouraged to pursue higher education, and each course ends with a question-and-answer session where UT Dallas students talk about campus life.
Keith Price, president of Focus on Teens, said Heads Up is an important part of the Dallas nonprofit organization’s work to help homeless teens. The agency operates drop-in centers in area schools and offers suicide screening in addition to drug awareness and prevention. “Addressing this overwhelming problem is a step forward for everyone,” Price said. “Offering this critical program is already moving the needle forward for everyone who takes part in it.”
Lanham said research suggests that adolescents are more receptive to information about drugs and alcohol from people closer to their age.
Artie Goldman, a student in the master of science in business analytics program, shared some of the obstacles he has faced as he taught Heads Up at Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership High School in Dallas.
“What I’ve noticed is, people don’t really talk about their setbacks,” he said during a recent class.
Goldman, who was born in Uzbekistan, told students about losing his father at a young age and moving to the United States 10 years ago without knowing any English.
“Whenever you have a mission, it’s something that’s definitely possible, even if you’re not being cheered or supported,” he said.
Rangel students said they enjoyed the class.
“In Mr. Goldman's class, I learned many new things when it dealt with drugs and alcohol,” student Sally Tamez said. “I really loved how he talked about his personal experiences when encountering certain situations where it might be tempting to do certain things.”
Maria Hernandez, guidance counselor at the school, said the class has given students an in-depth understanding of substance abuse that will help them in the future.
“The class has broken it down to a level where they can see the application in their lives,” Hernandez said. “That is going to have a lasting impact.”
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].