Project Safe: Protecting Our Youth, Empowering Our Community

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Diane Mishan

In the heart of our community lies a beacon of hope: The Safe Foundation. This licensed outpatient drug, alcohol, and gambling treatment center stands as a pillar of support for individuals grappling with addiction. Yet, what truly sets The Safe Foundation apart is its pioneering approach to preventive education. Through our groundbreaking school curriculum, Project SAFE, taught in over ten community schools to a total of 3,109 students, the Foundation is reshaping the narrative surrounding tough topics such as bullying, substance abuse, and body image. This transformative impact extends not only to our youths’ education but also to the overarching community wellness. 

At the core of The Safe Foundation’s mission is a commitment to holistic well-being. Recognizing that addiction often stems from underlying issues, the organization provides comprehensive outpatient treatment for substance abuse and gambling addiction. From individual counseling to group therapy sessions, The Safe Foundation offers a safe and supportive environment for individuals on their journey to recovery. Moreover, The Safe Foundation goes beyond traditional treatment methods by embracing a multifaceted approach to community wellness. 

Focus on Foundational Skills 

One of the most innovative aspects of The Safe Foundation’s work is its focus on foundational skills. This initiative, spearheaded by Project SAFE, aims to equip students with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate life’s challenges. By addressing these issues head-on and providing life skill tools, The Safe Foundation empowers students to make informed choices and to develop healthy coping mechanisms for any future challenges they may face. 

Project SAFE, led by our Director of Community Education, Liat Dahan, has implemented a new curriculum with the help of co-curriculum writer Sally Franco, called Project SELF. This program, consisting of 20 lessons, includes topics such as: who am I, foundational tools, relationship building, emotional intelligence and sense of self. Our SAFE teachers are trained and continuously supported to effectively deliver these crucial messages.    

Addressing Body Positivity 

Throughout the 2023-2024 school year, alongside our weekly SAFE classes, Project SAFE coordinated 52 special programs tailored to suit the unique requirements of every school, student body, and parent community. Notable among these were workshops on body positivity at Magen David High School where female students participated in a three-part workshop series on body positivity led by Sari Dana. Throughout these sessions, they delved into the concepts of body positivity and its intersection with social media, while also addressing the importance of shedding the diet mentality and embracing positive affirmations.  

Students not only gained insights into the detrimental effects of diets but also learned to trust their body’s natural wisdom when it comes to food choices. Additionally, they developed a keen awareness of the harmful messages propagated by social media regarding unrealistic beauty standards. Sari Dana’s book, The Journey to Body Positivity, served as a valuable resource throughout the workshops.  

Joint Programs for Children and Parents 

At Hillel Yeshivah Elementary, fourth-grade students and their parents took part in an interactive program crafted and led by Debbie Nehmad. Called “Stronger Together: Nurturing Values, Fostering Upstanders – A Family-Centered Program,” this initiative encouraged parents and students to collaborate in identifying their family values. Together, participants explored instances where living out these values might be challenging and they discovered strategies for prioritizing values and intervening when necessary. Witnessing the genuine engagement between parents and children during these significant discussions was truly heartening. A sincere thank you goes out to the fourth-grade parents of Hillel Yeshivah. Their active involvement played a pivotal role in the success of this program. 

In collaboration with CCSA, Project SAFE organized a program for eighth-grade children and their parents at Yeshivah of Flatbush Elementary School aimed at addressing the critical issue of drugs and alcohol. This session emphasized safety strategies and effective approaches to initiating open conversations about substance abuse. The session kicked off with a poignant video that shed light on the harsh realities of teenage substance abuse, paving the way for collaborative discussions between parents and children. Together, they brainstormed safety strategies and explored effective approaches to initiating open conversations about this sensitive topic. Children engaged in role-playing exercises to hone refusal and peer pressure management skills, while parents received additional education on recognizing addiction signs, identifying various substances, and learning how to broach the subject with their children in a non-judgmental manner. The program provided a platform for children to express their preferences regarding their parents’ responses, and vice versa, thereby fostering deeper understanding and communication within families. 

Promoting Emotional Well-Being 

We’ve introduced an emotional intelligence program through art, developed by Steven Franco, to expand traditional learning methods. Under the leadership of the Director of Education, Liat Dahan, and co-curriculum writer Sally Franco, a program was conducted at Yeshivah Prep, focusing on teaching students about their emotions. This initiative aims to lay a foundation for the students’ lifelong emotional well-being and social development, helping them recognize, understand, and express their feelings in a healthy manner. 

After piloting the program across various grades in multiple schools, our goal is to train teachers and to integrate the program into the school’s art curriculum next year. Barkai Yeshivah has already taken the lead by training their teachers and implementing the program into their 4th-grade classrooms! 

A Bright Example for Our Broader Community 

Beyond the classroom, The Safe Foundation’s work extends to the broader community, fostering empathy, understanding, and a culture of support. As the Foundation continues to expand its reach and impact, it relies on the generosity of donors and volunteers to sustain its programs. Together, we can build a brighter future for our community – one rooted in compassion, understanding, and resilience. The Safe Foundation stands as a shining example of the transformative power of education and community support, empowering tomorrow’s leaders and building resilient communities. Let us pave the way for a brighter, healthier future for all. 

Annual Breakfast Fundraiser 

Please Join us Friday morning, June 28th, 9am at the Jersey shore for our 21st annual summer breakfast fundraiser, where every donation brings us one step closer to safeguarding our community’s future. Let’s make a lasting impact and create a safer, healthier environment for generations to come. To donate: Venmo @safe-foundation, or visit our website www.thesafefoundation.org/donate.  

Don’t Wait 

If you or your loved one is struggling with alcohol, drugs, or gambling don’t wait, call 718-GET-SAFE. Our team of licensed professionals is here to help you! We have offices is Brooklyn, NY, and Eatontown, NJ, and offer remote services when appropriate.

Diane Mishan is the Director of Marketing & Events at the SAFE Foundation.