An eye-opener for all involved -- Intermediate Green Forest students offer heart-felt essays on drugs

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

GREEN FOREST ---- When adults use drugs or abuse alcohol, more is at risk than their own health and welfare. The very people who depend on them ---- their children ---- are often ignored or abused.

This point was dramatically brought to light recently when students at the Green Forest Intermediate School wrote drug awareness essays during Red Ribbon Week.

"Some talked about their parents in prison, others said they hope they don't grow up like mom or dad," said school nurse Regina Rinehart. "It really got to us. Their responses touched our hearts. It amazed me how much they see."

Rinehart, along with School Resource Officer Gaylon Riggs and Vicki Brown, the library media specialist, sponsored the essay contest.

"We wanted to know what they thought," said Rinehart.

Students in grades 5-7 were asked to participate and were told that their grammar and punctuation wouldn't matter.

"Some, who wouldn't normally volunteer to write, wrote their stories once they knew that grammar wasn't important," said Rinehart. "Most participated and it was tough to choose."

"It was tough because they were extremely heart-felt, personal and well-written," added Riggs. "There were three judges, myself, Regina (Rinehart) and Vicki Brown. We each judged individually and then came together. The majority of the selections were the same."

Riggs added, "These kids today are smarter and have more choices. But, they have to make their own choices. They are the only ones to make those decisions."

Said Rinehart, "It was overwhelming the response from the kids, talking about what they see in the community and in their own homes. It was an eye-opener for all involved. I'm hoping people will realize kids are hurting. They didn't necessarily say it in their essays, but in their conversations."

An essay written by sixth- grader Sarah Rich really caught Rinehart's attention. It won the sixth-grade and "overall" award.

Sarah wrote about her uncle who died at an early age. She said her essay was "written from the heart" because it had impacted her life personally.

"It was hard putting it into words," she said, "but I believe I'll be able to withstand the peer pressure because of my experience and knowing what it has done to his life."

Sarah wrote:

"The reason I choose to be drug free is because I don't want to end up like my uncle. He was a meth dealer, 32-years-old. He was reported missing in May by his mom. Five months later, on Oct. 13, his skeletal remains were found, scattered across a field. I believe he got into some trouble. Very soon now, we're going to have to support his wife and two-year-old son.

"I never want to be like him. Friends and family can pressure you to do this stuff. Drugs can cause you to do stupid things, like hurt a loved one. Drugs mess up your brain. It effects the way you think and act.

"I hope this doesn't happen to anyone, just as much as I hope it doesn't happen to me. All you have to do is have the courage to say no."

Officer Riggs noted that drugs affect the entire family, not just the users, such as in Sarah's case.

Yarixa Hernandez was the fifth grade essay winner. Speaking through an interpreter, she said a week-long drug awareness course at the school had taught her that "drugs are bad for everybody because drugs can make a person crazy, also it can kill.

"I want to tell those who take drugs," she wrote, "to stop doing it, it's for their own good. Drugs are bad for your eyes, face and your body and your mouth and your mind. I would not like to be a drug addict. Goodbye Yarixa is talking to you."

Caitlen Ault, the seventh-grade essay winner, said she wants to be drug free because of what she learned in science class.

"In the fourth grade, I started learning what drugs do to the body," she said. "I aspire to be a healthy person and drugs can hinder performance. There are opportunities available if you are drug free."

Caitlen wrote:

"Being drug free means a lot to me. Drug free means I can do whatever I want. Drug free means I can play whatever sport I want to play. It also means that I can be called drug free with pride. That's what drug free means to me.

"Drug free means... I can climb a mountain. I can also be in the war, I can also be an olympic gold medalist. This is how being drug free lets me do whatever I want.

"Being drug free means I can play whatever sport I want. I can play basketball, baseball, volleyball and soccer. All of these sports include physical activity such as running. If I'm drug free, that means I can run and be able to breathe without having problems. That's how I can be drug free and be able to play sports.

"Being drug free comes from pride. If your pride is expressed, it makes you and other people feel better about themselves. Being drug free isn't really hard, all you have to do is keep your mind away from drugs. Being drug free can make you feel good about your self esteem. That's how drug free comes from pride.

"Being drug free means a lot to me and my family. Being drug free means I can do anything I please. It also means I can play any sport. Last but not least, it also means that I can be drug free with pride. That's what being drug free means to me always."

Sarah, Yarixa and Caitlin all earned hero medallions and drug free basketballs for their essays.

Others who earned hero medallions were Jackuline Barrios, Haylie Franklin, Megan Ness, David Carmen, Emmanuel Rocha, Heather Hart and Amy Berg.

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