Welcome Back to School!
Get Started, Get FOCUS, Get Students
A new year has begun . . . new students are in your classes . . . new opportunities to make a difference on your campus are here . . . what will you do?

FOCUS encourages you to begin this new school year with a fresh start and positive vision that begins with getting your school registered and getting your students recruited. The mission of FOCUS is empowering students to be actively involved in reducing the incidences of risky behaviors among their peers. It is a known fact that students listen to students; therefore, create that avenue of influence and communication by building a strong group of student leaders who are passionate about “Making a Difference” on their campus and in their community. Involvement with FOCUS not only builds leadership skills but also a sense of ownership in the education and prevention efforts that your students will develop and implement. These traits will carry them through high school and beyond. 

The staff at FOCUS is willing and able to assist you in making this happen. Visit our website for more information--www.thefocusprogram.com. If you register your school as a FOCUS school, you will have access to the Facilitator portal with implementation guides and limitless resources. Be that teacher/facilitator who gives your students the opportunity to “Make a Difference” at your school!!
Virtual Student Leadership Training Opportunity Available Through FOCUS!
“There are two basic choices in life. Check out and whine or….SHOW UP AND SHINE.”                                                                             -Kent Julian
We are excited to announce a partnership with Kent Julian. As a motivational youth speaker and leadership trainer, Kent serves thousands of students, advisors, and educators primarily through his partnerships with Career and Technology Student Organizations (CTSO), school districts, and student leadership organizations. Kent served as the keynote speaker for the 2015 FOCUS Rally at Shocco Springs Conference Center in Talladega, AL.
Kent Julian will be providing a series of four interactive leadership training videos for Alabama FOCUS schools. The series will be available upon demand in early September at www.thefocusprogram.com under the Facilitator Portal. When registering as a FOCUS School for 2021-2022, the facilitator will receive a User Name and Password to access the Leadership Training Video Series and other valuable resources to empower students to lead the prevention of adolescent risk behaviors in schools and communities across the State of Alabama.
Kent wants to serve you and your team! You can be guaranteed he will SHOW UP AND SHINE and his focus will be providing leadership training to have your students prepared to have the best school year possible.
The Summer of FOCUS
The Summer of 2021 found FOCUS at various locations to share opportunities to implement education and the prevention of adolescent risk behaviors to middle and high school students. The journey began at the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools (CLAS) Conference in June, where administrators across the state joined to help improve K-12 public education by providing exemplary services for administrators. FOCUS staff was present and willing to talk with administrators about the advantages of providing these opportunities on their campuses.

MEGA Conference in Mobile was the location for the unveiling of the new health elective, Leaders in Health Advocacy (Course Code 250010). This course provides an opportunity for students in Grades 10-12 to become advocates for themselves, their peers, and society as a whole by engaging in activities that promote personal and community health. The next week in July afforded FOCUS staff the opportunity to attend all three Health and Physical Education Conferences in Athens, Alabaster, and Mobile to present this course to health educators across the state.

If the health elective was not an option, at each presentation the opportunity to implement the standards and prevention efforts was introduced through FOCUS as an extracurricular offering. FOCUS is versatile, adaptable, and FREE. All that a school should do is register as a FOCUS school to receive the benefits and resources provided through this statewide organization. The mission of FOCUS is empowering students to be actively involved in reducing the incidences of risky behaviors among their peers.

Alumnus of the Month
Every month we will highlight one of FOCUS' alumni!
Congratulations to Ashley Morriss, our Alumnus of the Month! Ashley is a 2021 graduate of Jacksonville High School, where she served as the FOCUS President. Ashley’s steadfast leadership was vital to the program’s success throughout the challenging and ever changing pandemic school year. Her fellow Peer Helpers describe her as an amazing role model who is kind, patient, trustworthy, and a friend to all.
Upon graduation, Ashley received the Martha Vandervoort Memorial Scholarship, which celebrates students who have made an impact on their community through leadership and community service. She is currently pursuing her nursing degree at Jacksonville State University. In addition to her college studies and busy work schedule, Ashley continues to contribute to the JHS FOCUS and Peer Helping programs. She recently returned to her alma mater to train and mentor the new FOCUS teachers and Peer Helpers. She is already booked as a guest speaker and will be actively involved in the upcoming Peer Helping training retreat.
Ashley Morriss is a leader who continues to “Make A Difference” in the lives of others, and we look forward to all that she will accomplish. Well done, Ashley!
Congratulations to Randall McFarland
the “2021 Difference Maker”
FOCUS Program’s Outstanding Facilitator
(Birmingham, AL) FOCUS is pleased to announce Randall McFarland, Tarrant High School, as the winner of the 2021 Difference Maker Award which recognizes the most outstanding educator facilitating FOCUS in Alabama! The Difference Maker Award was created to honor those whose passion, enthusiasm, and leadership have resulted in real successes in the prevention of adolescent risk behaviors in their school and community. As the winner of this award, Mr. McFarland received $1,000 cash, a trophy, and framed certificate.

An individual nominating Mr. McFarland stated, “Mr. McFarland literally entered each classroom in the school and informed as many students as he could about the program and why we should join. His delivery and pitch were not only fun, but serious as well and we knew it was serious because he started to speak about our future and long-term goals.”

Randall McFarland obtained his bachelor’s degree in Psychology & Sociology and his Masters in Social Work with a concentration in Mental Health both from Alabama A&M University. He is also a member Xi Omicron chapter of The Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Incorporated.

Mr. McFarland is the new School Social Worker and Graduation Coach at Tarrant High School. This is his first year not only as a Social Worker, but also as an employee of any school system. He is also the very first African American male Social Worker at Tarrant High School. He started facilitating INFOCUS, under the direction of Ms. Adrienne Coleman at Addiction Prevention Coalition, in 2020. According to Mr. McFarland, “the amount of determination, dedication, and bravery (in the students) despite the unfortunate situations within their households was wonderful to see!”

Mr. McFarland lives in Birmingham, Al. He is married to Carolynn McFarland and they were recently blessed with their first child, Randall Travis McFarland IV. He has five siblings, four sisters and one brother with him being the oldest. He also has a host of nieces and nephews. Some of his hobbies include Mixed Martial Arts training, traveling, and watching Japanese Anime.

We are honored to recognize Randall McFarland for his outstanding leadership. Congratulations and thank you to Mr. McFarland for his work in reducing the incidence of adolescent risk behaviors and truly Making a Difference in the lives of students!         
Visit www.thefocusprogram.com for information on FOCUS.
Mr. Randall McFarland
Pictured left to right: Mr. Keith Hearon, Tarrant High School Principal;
Mr. Randall McFarland; Andrienne Coleman, INFOCUS Director from the
Addiction Prevention Coalition; and Sue Jones, FOCUS Director.
If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911 immediately.
BEGIN PLANNING YOUR ACTIVITIES FOR Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
Suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. In fact, suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. Suicidal thoughts, although common, should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month — a time to raise awareness on this stigmatized, and often taboo, topic. In addition to shifting public perception, we use this month to spread hope and vital information to people affected by suicide. Our goal is to ensure that individuals, friends, and families have access to the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention and to seek help.

Throughout September, FOCUS is partnering with NAMI and will highlight “Together for Mental Health,” which encourages people to bring their voices together to advocate for better mental health care, including a crisis response system. NAMI wants any person experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviors to have a number to call, a system to turn to, that would connect them to the treatment and support they need.

Please email your photos and activities to April at afreitag@thefocusprogram.com to be highlighted on the FOCUS social media sites and in the newsletter. 
New FOCUS Brochure!
Click here to check out our new FOCUS brochure! For more information on FOCUS please visit our website at www.thefocusprogram.com.
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FOCUS values continued partnerships with the following state and community organizations.

Alabama Department of Public Health
Alabama Department of Education
Alabama Campaign for Adolescent Sexual Health
Addiction Prevention Coalition
Children's Policy Council
Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools (CLAS)
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama