Safety tips for college-bound students

by Jeff Ferrell

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - All too soon Ark-La-Tex families will say goodbye to their children headed-off to college.  And those parents are not the only ones worried about their safety.  It even inspired a special course in Caddo Parish.
     For the thousands of local students who will soon head-off to college, there is so much to think about beyond just paying for it.  That includes everything from self-defense to self-control.
     Cpl. Lifford Jackson of the Caddo Sheriff's Office grabbed the wrists of a young lady inside a classroom at the Caddo Correctional Center (CCC) in Shreveport Thursday morning and said to her, "hey girl, whatya doin'?"  It looked like the beginning of an attack.  And it sounded like an attack.  And that was exactly the point of the college-bound safety course sponsored by the Caddo Sheriff's Office.
     Cpl. Jackson continued his lesson by instructing the student:
CPL. JACKSON:  "So, the first thing you need to do is cause some kind of distraction."
CPL. JACKSON:  "Alright, so kick.
STUDENT:  (She kicked)
CPL. JACKSON:  "Not for real!! (laugh)"
     The room full of students erupted in laughter when it became obvious the student gave Jackson a real-life kick, leading him to say:
CPL JACKSON:  "Time out!"
     That just prompted more laughter, as Cpl. Jackson then backed away from the demonstration for a moment.  The exercise and the humor clearly engaged the students.
     Role-playing extended into the category of general safety, like being approached by a stranger.  The instructor this time:  Sgt. P.J. Jackson with Centenary College's Public Safety Department.  Sgt. Jackson walked up to another student and began the exercise:
SGT. P.J. JACKSON:  "I just walk up out of nowhere, 'hey, you got a dollar?'"
STUDENT:  (no reply)
SGT. P.J. JACKSON:  "Just leave, just walk away.  'I don't want to talk to you.  I don't have a dollar.  Get out, you know, go.'"
     Twenty or so students turned out for this daylong seminar, all free of charge for those 17 to 21 years of age and headed to college.  Topics also included how students would likely confront internal strife, from anxiety to depression and how essential it is for them to have strategies for coping and for changing behaviors.
     That includes temptations, which covers more than drinking or doing drugs.  "You get in the cafeteria, you start eating, you start to gain weight, you get depressed," continued Sgt. Jackson.
     The safety course also dealt with mental health awareness.  For that discusssion, Dr. Jody Meek offered his advice to the group.  Dr. Meek works for the Louisiana Office of Mental Health and directly tackled the two taboo s-words:  "People don't always talk about sex.  And they don't always talk about suicide."  He did, and they listened.
     If nothing else, these soon-to-be college students came to realize that a few factors can make a huge difference when they arrive at college.  A little dialogue and a little information can go a long way to chip away at those fears, concerns or anxieties.
     And the number one piece of advice from instructors to students:  Get to know your surroundings very well when you arrive on campus, along with potential areas of danger.