Frequently Asked Questions

What does The Power of Choice do? How do you get your message out to students and parents?
Using data from the biannual survey of all high school students, materials are designed and student messages are delivered at school.  Posters throughout the building, newsletters in bathrooms, locker rooms, in waiting areas, above water fountains, messages in school handbooks, stickers on Laffy Taffy, banners at big games, are all means used to get the word out.  Students have face to face contact with campaign representatives during classroom presentations (which happen once in the career of each student) and lunchroom cafeteria opportunities to learn and give feedback to the campaign.

Messages for parents include parent brochures, newsletters and The Power of Choice Website. Newsletter links are sent electronically by each school building and parent brochures are delivered with school registration materials annually.  All parent materials are available on the website as well.

Why is it so difficult for some students and adults to believe that the majority of students are making healthy choices?
Health is quiet! We don’t notice it. It’s normal. Teens who make healthy choices just go about their lives making choices that don’t get attention or fanfare. Guaranteed no one ever starts rumors or gossips about a teen’s healthy choice. Doing homework, hanging out with friends, going to work, babysitting the younger brother, dinner with the family, a long practice or workout – the stuff of life most teens are involved in – the healthy and responsible things done every day – are rarely, if ever, shouted about in hallways or captured on the front page of the newspaper.
Don't all students just lie on those surveys?

  • • The project is utilizing the best science available. The survey that is used is the Illinois Youth Survey.  Survey and data analysis are provided by the CPRD at the University of Illinois. The University of Illinois Center for Prevention Research and Development (CPRD) builds questions into the survey to test to see if someone is lying. The main indicator for an honest survey is consistency. For example, the same question is asked in a variety of different ways on the survey. If the computer finds the answers are not consistent, the survey is discarded and shredded. Researchers tell us this happens with less than 1% of the surveys annually.
  • • Four different classes in District 203 and 204 have tested the accuracy of the survey results. Sociology, Advanced Math, and Statistics classes have completed projects aimed at uncovering the truth. Each project found that the same percentage of students, or more, are cigarette-free and alcohol-free.
  • • We now have census data points annually since 2003. The data is wonderfully consistent with each year, reinforcing confidence in it’s accuracy.
  • • A California study, Verifying Drug Abuse Prevention Programs Effects Using Reciprocal Best Friend Reports, supports the reliability of student self-report surveys. (Journal of Behavioral Medicine, Vol. 23, No. 6, 2000)
Is there any research that proves that this type of survey is even valid?
Yes!  Actually over 100 studies have been done to assess the validity of self-report surveys in the area of behavioral health.  The Illinois Youth Survey has been through the scientifically recognized validation process.  To learn more about the validity of self report surveys like the Illinois Youth Survey see The Validity of Self Report Surveys from The Center for Health and Safety Culture.
The percentages are the average of everyone - so what if you just looked at seniors?
We did. Annually, the Center for Prevention Research and Development gives us grade level specific data. The truth is that the majority of students from each grade level (freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors) report being cigarette-free, alcohol-free and marijuana-free in the last 30 days.
Which of the schools drinks/smokes the most?
The percentages of students who are cigarette-free, alcohol-free and marijuana-free are very similar in each of the District 203 and 204 high schools. The difference is not considered to be statistically significant.
Is any of this even working?
Yes. Our goal is to get accurate information out to students so they are better informed and to increase the number of students making healthy choices. Here are just a few of the successes of statistical significance from 2003-2016:

  • • Students perceive that less of their peers are using tobacco, alcohol and marijuana and that those who do use these substances are using less often.
  • • The reported mean of perceived peer cigarette use, alcohol use and marijuana use have all decreased.
  • • Increase in the number of students reporting being cigarette-free in all categories measured (30 day use, annual use, and “never” use).
  • • Increase in the number of students reporting being alcohol-free in all categories measured (30 day use, annual use, and “never” use).
  • • While the number of alcohol-free students also increased on the state and national level, the local data shows an increase in alcohol-free students greater than the state findings and more than triple that of the national findings (30 day and annual).
  •  Here is a chart comparing statistics from 2003-2016
Sure, 81% have not had alcohol in the past month. That means that 19% have been using. Are you ignoring the ones who ARE doing it?

We’re not ignoring the fact that there are some high school students who are drinking or using other substances. Our mission is to let everyone know that those students are in the minority and that everybody is NOT doing it. Those who are drinking or using other substances need to have access to information, resources and support. It takes a united community effort to effectively care for all our youth and provide a safety net that meets the needs of youth and families wherever they are on the continuum of health.

The goal of The Power of Choice, as a primary prevention social norms marketing communication campaign, is to share the reality that the majority of students have chosen to be cigarette-free, alcohol-free and other drug-free. Most students are making healthy choices most of the time.

What about heroin use and high school students?

Data from the annual survey of all high school students in District 203 & 204 looks like this:

  • • 100% no heroin use in the last year
Who puts the stickers on ALL those Laffy Taffys?

The Power of Choice high school campaign distributes our positive messages on approximately 22,000 pieces of Laffy Taffy every year!  This year we are excited to partner with the Connections students from District 203 who have been busy “stickering” all that Taffy as they implement their skills as “Community Contributors.”  Connections is a program that provides transitional services that expose students to activities with promote positive outcomes in: social skills, communication, pre-vocational/ vocational/ employment skills, community living, functional academics, navigation through the community and self-determination.  Connections assists students to become effective self-advocates and in exploring work and post-secondary options.  We are so grateful for all that our Connections friends are doing for The Power of Choice!

I have a question/new idea for The Power of Choice. How do I submit it?
Email  Dawn Neylon, Power of Choice Coordinator