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Using puppets to connect with kids - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Using puppets to connect with kids

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WINOOSKI, Vt. - Many students face challenges everyday when it comes to issues like substance abuse.   Winooski Middle School is giving kids an outlet to talk about their concerns through puppetry.

Drugs and alcohol can change the course of a child's life in an instant. "My best friend -- he passed away because of something that happened with drugs," said Winooski 6th grader Alexis LaClair.

It's a battle that can effect how students learn. At Winooski Middle School, Puppets in Education is on a mission to create awareness, and teach prevention. The puppets take the students out of the classroom and into a place of safety where they are able to find ways to solve problems through entertainment. The troupe has been around for 32 years and has 24 programs. They focus on topics like physical and sexual abuse prevention, alcohol abuse, smoking and Cultural Diversity.

"It is just profound how the kids just connect -- from elementary school to middle school -- with the puppets and tell them things that they might not have told their friends or a parent or a teacher," said the group's Sarah Vogelsang-Card.

"We watched a puppet show on tobacco and what can happen when drinking and driving," said
8th grader Jaret Chagnon.

"If you take one shot, it equals one glass of wine and one can of beer and that's really, really bad because if that gets to your stomach and it goes through your system it can lead to really, really bad things," LaClair said.

With the help of funding from local organizations, Karen Sharpwolf and Vogelsang travel to 50 schools a year and reach as many as 10,000 students.  At Winooski Middle School it's a vital connection that can have a lasting impact on the students. "The more they understand themselves -- we can connect the message of different organizations that come in to that work and their understanding of themselves -- I think the more powerful their education is," said Winooski Principal Leon Wheeler.

On this visit Puppets in Education has received enough funding to provide the students with 20 puppets to keep.  For many students puppetry is just the foundation to help them talk about problems they may face everyday. "We hope that we're just continuing what the school is already doing, but we're enforcing it and giving the means to understand this information," Vogelsang-Card said.

"Be careful what you do, think carefully, think of your friends and family -- anything that you really, really, really care about and just don't do drugs.  Just don't -- its bad," LaClair said.

The team of two also travels out of state to spread their message -- one they hope reminds the community that drug and alcohol abuse affects us all.
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