Ramsey- The Several Sources Foundation of Ramsey has won three National Telly Awards for its innovative CD ROM game that deals with issues such as teen pregnancy, drug abuse and communication skills.
Developed by Several Sources founder Kathy DiFiore with the help of software programmers, the “Choice Game” places users in real life situations and allows them to chose a path while showing the possible consequences that may follow. The game is based on Bandura’s Social Cognitive Learning Theory, which focuses on the importance of observing and modeling the behaviors of others.
The Telly Award, founded in 1978 honors local and regional cable television commercials and programming as well as video and film productions. The Telly Awards stated mission is to promote and support creativity in visual arts. The Choice Game proved best in the categories of multimedia accomplishment, social issues and communications.
“The game is before it’s time,” DiFiore said. “We’ve been told by professional educators that we are about 10 years ahead of our time. This game combined the ability of a computer to engage young people in an interactive way. In additional to teaching themselves, they’re able to open their minds in a way they don’t normally.”
DiFiore first had the idea for The Choice Game six years ago when she was contemplating opening another shelter for pregnant teenage mothers or concentrating her efforts on prevention of teenage pregnancy.
“I think the Holy Spirit was guiding me,: DiFiore said. “I’m a very prayerful person and I think I was being guided in the direction of teaching others what I’ve tried to teach the women who have come to stay at my shelters.”
Several Sources Foundation operates five
shelters for pregnant women in need- two located in Ramsey. One of the foundation’s goals is to educate youth about making critical life choices before make decisions that could result in an unplanned pregnancy or drug addiction.
Operating under the same goal, The Choice Game has been infused with the health curriculum teachings in the Newark School system, both public and private institutions. The game has also spread beyond New Jersey and is in 11 other states. Although the game has not yet been implemented in any school districts in Bergen County , DiFiore has hopes that it will soon spread to other parts of the state.
“the very best thing that this game gives is it can help teenagers make healthier choices in their lives,” DiFiore said. “When you think back to your teen years, you feel invincible but low and behold all of a sudden something really bad happens and you look back and say if I only would have known. I think what the game does is give young people an opportunity to really think things through and to have that feeling before the disaster happens.
The Choice Game was funded by a $2.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The money was awarded to Several Sources Foundation to create and implement The Choice Game Curriculum in school but cannot be used to fund any of the shelter activities or needs.
Although Several Sources Foundation is faith based, in accordance with the grant stipulations the game itself is not based on the concept of God, faith or the church. Another issue restricted by the grant is the mention of abortion in the game.
The Choice Game Curriculum is tailored to fit a variety of student needs, showcasing both an urban and Midwestern version.
“Teen pregnancy, drinking and drugs is a problem throughout all communities and the game has
|been created to serve both the suburban as well as urban settings." DiFiore said.
Another aspect of the game that makes students more receptive to its lessons is the use of human actors to portray the game's scenarios as opposed to digital cartoon characters.
We conducted many hours of research with the kids and nothing worked unless you had real people because they could accept a real person's accent, body language and clothes," DiFiore said. "When you try to use a cartoon character, it just doesn't work."
Several Sources Shelter mothers Thalia Ramon and Madeline Carmichael both agree that the realistic approach to the game has an impact on its users.
"Maybe the students will take a second thought." said 18 year old Carmichael. "If I had this game in my school, I would have made better decisions for myself, than I did. In the school I came from, we didn' t know the work abstinence."
Ramon said some aspects of the game are already taught in class but more in definition form than real life situations. (Continued)
The Several Sources Foundation recently won three National Telly Awards for its CD ROM game that deals with issues such as teen pregnancy, drug abuse and communication skills.