Potomac, MD: WILL Interactive, Inc., the Potomac, MD-based leader in virtual experience behavior modification gaming and recipient of the National Training and Simulation Association (NTSA) ‘2006 Best Serious Game’ award, in partnership with the Public Charter School Student Support Center (SSC), known for their work in substance abuse and violence prevention in urban schools serving high-risk youth, announced the receipt of a grant from CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield. The grant will be used to address school violence in five Washington, D.C. schools by introducing an education program that will utilize WILL Interactive’s serious games, Hate Comes Home and Interactive Nights Out 2™ (INO2™). Included within the grant will be a license for each school to continue using Hate Comes Home and Interactive Nights Out 2 after the initial education program is completed.
“We are excited to work with CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield to take a decisive step in addressing the important issue of school violence,” said Sharon Sloane, CEO WILL Interactive, Inc. “WILL Interactive’s serious game learning tools, Hate Comes Home and Interactive Nights Out 2, instruct in a unique, highly engaging medium attractive to the video game generation. The software will be instrumental in the success of this program in teaching students how to think rather than what to think.”
“We are proud to support the Student Support Center in their efforts to address school violence,” said Gregory A. Devou, CareFirst Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. “It’s so important to be involved in educating our youth about the significance of preventing violence in their lives.”
“The Student Support Center for the public charter schools is thrilled that with the grant from Care First we can purchase these exceptional interactive games to enhance our programs in character education and substance abuse prevention. The games are part of a comprehensive effort to develop healthy student and positive school environments where all children can succeed,” said Eve Brooks, Executive Director of the Student Support Center. She continued, “The students in the D.C. charter schools, like those in the D.C. Public Schools often come from communities fraught with drugs and violence. The Games will help them to develop decision making and resistance skills to avoid the temptations of both. They augment a continuum of evidence-based mental health and character education programs already in place.”
WILL Interactive’s Hate Comes Home begins with the Homecoming dance that no school should ever experience: two students are killed in a hate crime committed by other students. Four students hold the keys to a peaceful outcome and the player of this game must navigate through a series of decisions to reach that peaceful outcome. Interactive Nights Out 2 helps 11-17 year-olds make educated choices about alcohol and other drugs. As the lead characters, the player attends parties, takes road trips, confronts the law, addresses family and peer relationships, and tackles decisions regarding alcohol and other drugs.
A Youth Policy Institute-developed survey on violence among youths was administered to students in five D.C.-based charter high schools and 12 charter middle schools during the spring of 2006, showing a high level of violence. The survey found that:
In charter high schools that participated in the survey:
- 26.3% of respondents have hit, slapped, or shoved a teacher or another grown-up at school at least once;
- 59.3% of respondents have hit or kicked someone;
- 40.7% of respondents have been in a physical fight in the past 12 months.
In charter middle schools that participated in the survey:
- 59.9% of respondents have been hit, pushed, or kicked by another student;
- 81.6% of respondents have witnessed other students being hit, pushed or kicked by another student;
- 47.7% of respondents have witnessed another student beaten up badly at least once since the beginning of the school year.
WILL Interactive’s Hate Comes Home and Interactive Nights Out 2 learning games are now available to schools and organizations across the country via the Internet and on CD-ROM. These learning tools are designed to improve critical thinking, judgment and decision-making and use WILL Interactive’s patented VEILS® (Virtual Experience Immersive Learning Simulation) technology, which has been proven effective in changing behavior and enhancing positive decision-making.
A cross between a video game and a feature film, VEILS® enables users to role-play the lead characters in live-action, research-based interactive movies that depict real-life decisions and consequences in the safety of cyberspace. The goal is to enhance the user’s decision-making skills by creating realistic, stressful situations where the user must make decisions in a slice of life context.
Other WILL Interactive programs for students include Generation Rx™, The Challenge, and Just Two Days. Generation Rx™ was created with students and in collaboration with the Kentucky River Community Care, Inc. to reinforce a prescription drug abuse prevention program in Eastern Kentucky aimed at 12 – 17 year olds. The Challenge teaches teen leadership skills for the same age group, and Just 2 Days addresses anger management and school violence.
In its 71st year of service, CareFirst, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, is a not-for-profit health care company which, through its affiliates and subsidiaries, offers a comprehensive portfolio of health insurance products and administrative services to more than 3 million individuals and groups in Northern Virginia, the District of Columbia and Maryland. Through its CareFirst Commitment initiative and other public mission activities, CareFirst supports efforts to increase the accessibility, affordability, safety and quality of health care throughout its market areas.
About the Public Charter Schools Student Support Center (SSC)
The Public Charter Schools Student Support Center (SSC) is a non-profit, 501 (C)(3) organization founded by charter schools in 1999. Its mission is to assist the District of Columbia’s (DC) charter schools in meeting the social, developmental and educational needs of their students. Charter schools serve an overwhelming percentage (96%) of minority and low-income students, representing 25% of all DC public school students. Seventy-six percent of these students qualify for free and reduced price meals. SSC helps charter schools to build safe environments that prevent and reduce the risk of violence, substance abuse, and other negative health outcomes. The organization brings a public health approach to its work. SSC integrates best practices in education, child and youth development, and mental health services to help youth develop into mentally healthy and productive citizens. To learn more, visit www.studentsupportcenter.org