About Heather Barrett
Length of time in Hall County: Born and raised in Gainesville, more specifically in Gillsville.
Education: Graduated from East Hall High School; associate’s degree from Gainesville State College; bachelor’s degree from North Georgia College & State University; Master of Arts in Teaching from Piedmont College; education specialist degree from Lincoln Memorial University.
Occupation: Science teacher at East Hall High School.
Most interesting job: Teacher.
Family information: Husband, Dr. Kent Barrett, two children, Walker and Halle.
For a dozen years, Heather Barrett has been a teacher at East Hall High School, her alma mater, where she relishes the opportunity to impact the lives of her students. As adviser for the school’s Students Against Destructive Decisions group, she works with her students to help them learn to make smart decisions — both in the classroom and out — about the challenges they face. Today, The Times asks Heather Barrett five questions about teens at her school.
1. Have you seen a change in teen behavior in regards to making destructive decisions?
Over the years of being an adviser to SADD, I have seen many changes in teen behavior. For instance, I have seen a generation that is more technologically advanced, which unfortunately includes texting while driving. I have seen a change in the number of teens who are depressed, which I’ve noticed is sadly growing at an alarming rate.
I have seen a change in the number of teens that are choosing to do drugs and in the number of teens that are drinking at younger ages. I have also seen a change in the number of teens that are participating in sexual activity.
In response to these changes, I have seen a big push in the educational system. There are several organizations such as the Drug Free Coalition of Hall County, To Write Love on Her Arms, and SADD that are working to spread the word about the consequences of making bad decisions. Our SADD program is supported by Georgia’s Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, which aids in providing the materials to educate our students.
I work with a wonderful group of students at East Hall High. Most of my SADD students have personal experiences with dealing with destructive decisions. I work to encourage them to do better and I let them know that no matter what, someone cares and it is never too late to change.
2. Do you think teens are more aware than they were when you were a teenager?
Yes, they are definitely more aware and are exposed to mature subject matters at a much younger age. Teens today are “street” smart. They know where to purchase drugs, they know how to obtain alcohol, and they are engaging in and learning about sexual activity at younger ages.
We must realize that the fact that kids are more aware coupled with their adolescent naivety is a dangerous combination. It is so important for parents and the community to get involved in the lives of their children and set good examples for the generations that are watching us.
3. What programs do you have in place that seem to be the most successful at educating young people?
Our SADD program is a great program for educating teens on the dangers of a life with destructive decisions. We are currently working with a program called To Write Love on Her Arms to spread the message of the dangers of teen depression and suicide. In the past, we teamed with Channel 11’s Commuter Dude and Oprah’s No Phone Zone to raise awareness about texting while driving. Each school year, we partner with Little & Davenport Funeral Home for Prom Promise Week to raise the awareness of destructive decisions on prom night. We also celebrate Red Ribbon Week each year to raise awareness about the dangers of using drugs. Overall, our SADD program educates the students at East Hall High about all the real life dangers that students face.
4. What do you do to get parents involved in this initiative?
The SADD club’s main objective is to educate students with events at the school. At East Hall High, we know that parent involvement is a big part of a student’s success. We encourage parent involvement at all school activities. I firmly believe that children absorb the values of their parents; therefore parent involvement is crucial to the upbringing of a child. We have wonderful parents at East Hall High and we encourage parents to be involved in every aspect of their child’s life.
5. Nationally, teenagers are waiting longer to get their driver’s licenses. Do you see that trend in Hall County?
Yes, that is definitely the case in Hall County. When talking to students most say they are waiting until they are 17 because of Joshua’s Law. With Joshua’s Law, in order to get your driver’s license when you are 16 you must take a 30-hour driving class and hold your learner’s license for one year. My students say that in order to avoid taking the class they are waiting until after their 17th birthday.
The Joshua’s Law classes are held each year for no charge thru the Hall County Sheriff’s Office. However, some students expressed a need to have a job at age 16 so they were willing to complete the class to get their license but it is just a few students, not the norm.
Each Monday, “5 Questions” asks someone in our community to answer five questions about their lives. If you know someone who would be a good subject for this feature, send their name and contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org.