Collier County Deputy Sheriff Corporal Michael Sutton was recently recognized as “Florida Instructor of the Year” by Law Enforcement Against Drugs & Violence (L.E.A.D.), a nationwide nonprofit committed to protecting communities from drugs and violence. The award was presented to Corporal Sutton at L.E.A.D.’s Seventh Annual 21st Century Drug and Violence Prevention Training Conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
“We’re pleased to congratulate Corporal Sutton on his outstanding work, during the school day, educating kids on the value of drug and violence prevention,” said Nick DeMauro, CEO of L.E.A.D. “Drugs and violence continue to be a problem for young students across the country, so we commend him on protecting those in Collier County from these dangers which, in turn, is bridging the gap between police forces and communities.”
L.E.A.D. provides services “on the street” and “in the classroom” as it brings law enforcement and communities closer together. The “in the classroom” program is taught by 3000 trained instructors in 41 states. L.E.A.D. has the only proven effective, law enforcement-focused anti–drug, anti–violence curriculum for K-12 students in the U.S. The L.E.A.D. curriculum is taught over the course of a 10-week program to educate youth on how they can make smart decisions without the involvement of drugs or violence.
Corporal Sutton taught the program to 205 fifth grade students at Laurel Oak Elementary School during the first semester of the 2021-2022 school year and, currently, is teaching 134 students in the fifth grade at Veterans Memorial Elementary School. He’s been teaching the L.E.A.D. curriculum, which is provided to fifth graders at all 31 elementary schools in Collier County, for three years.
“Shielding students from the dangers of drugs and violence, through teaching the L.E.A.D. curriculum, has not only allowed me to solidify my relationships with them during my time in the classroom but create a lifelong foundation of trust,” said Corporal Sutton.
Often times, Corporal Sutton’s past L.E.A.D. students connect with him years after graduating from the program regarding job recommendations or advice on entering the field of law enforcement.
“Through the positive relationships that I’ve developed with the kids in the classroom, they’ve identified me as someone they can rely on to help make these kinds of decisions,” he said. “Knowing that they trust and value my opinion is incredibly gratifying.”
In terms of the L.E.A.D. curriculum, Corporal Sutton says that the peer pressure lesson is critical.
“It helps them understand the consequences, especially on a growing body, of using alcohol, tobacco and marijuana and navigate the pressure they face from their peers as they get older,” he said. “The lesson teaches the students to use strategies in situations where they feel pressured to do something that they’re not comfortable with, and they enjoy sharing how they’re applying the tools in everyday life outside of the classroom with us.”
For more information on L.E.A.D., please visit www.leadrugs.org