Delta is full of nice people and are generally caring and respectful, but the community -- and its younger residents -- clearly have a drug problem. In the eyes of students from Grand Mesa Choice Academy, Achieve Blended Learning Academy and Vision Charter Academy, students who lack positive after-school activities, have little hope for the future or are simply bored turn to drugs. Their concerns were voiced during the fifth and final listening tour conducted by the school district. Previously, district administrators and school board members heard from students at Cedaredge, Delta, Hotchkiss and Paonia high schools.
Grand Mesa Choice Academy is for at-risk students who, for a variety of reasons, have failed to thrive in traditional schools. It's an alternative that's prevented many students from dropping out of school entirely. Unfortunately, even that safety net doesn't work for everyone. GMCA students said they've seen enrollment steadily decline since the beginning of the year, and they were quick to identify the reason -- kids are turning to drugs. "They're making it their life," one student commented.
When asked about drug prevention programs, students said the best response is simply support and understanding from a trusted adult. Rather than expelling a student for drug possession, they said administrators should sit down and try to learn why that student has turned to drugs. Many GMCA students already have disciplinary issues; they don't need more problems dumped on their shoulders.
A rehab center for teens was suggested, but some students said that would just turn into a place where teens could get together and cause trouble.
In response to a question from a school board member about the drugs of choice, students said methamphetamine is a bigger problem than marijuana, although marijuana is easier to access. They expressed concern for elementary and middle school students who are being exposed to marijuana at home.
In the community, they said they value the recreation center, Taco Time and the variety of other dining choices. Even students enjoy the city's flowers, but they echoed a concern about trashy roadsides that was also voiced by students at Delta High School.
In school, they struggle with time constraints and with classmates who don't take school as seriously as they do. If money was no object, they said they would like better desks, chairs, school supplies and textbooks. Some of those items, they said, are hand-me-downs from traditional schools. More technology, a bigger building and additional computers were requested by GMCA students.
Public transportation was a unique concern to GMCA students, who attend classes two miles south of Delta on the Technical College of the Rockies campus. Food stamps was another issue that never came up at traditional high schools, but was a concern for a student who said her family earns too much to qualify for the assistance it truly needs.