Stu­dents kick off drug-free ob­ser­vance

Westside Eagle-Observer - - FRONT PAGE - SU­SAN HOL­LAND shol­land@nwadg.com

GRAVETTE — Oc­to­ber is Na­tional Sub­stance Abuse Aware­ness Month, and an assem­bly was held Fri­day at the Gravette Mid­dle School gym to ob­serve the month. Stu­dents from Gravette Up­per El­e­men­tary School and Gravette Mid­dle School at­tended the assem­bly which was a kick­off for their schools’ Red Rib­bon Week, which is be­ing held Oct. 23 - 26.

Of­fi­cer Josh Crane, school re­source of­fi­cer at the two schools, wel­comed the stu­dents and

in­tro­duced each speaker. Stu­dents led the pledge of al­le­giance to the flag and called for a mo­ment of si­lence.

Rick McLeod, Ben­ton County Drug Free direc­tor, was the first speaker. He talked to the stu­dents about the dan­gers of il­le­gal drugs and said they would at some time in their lives face a de­ci­sion about whether or not to use drugs. He said they should learn all they could about the con­se­quences of drug use so they could make that de­ci­sion wisely.

Fol­low­ing McLeod’s speech, the stu­dents in the bleach­ers broke into a se­ries of ex­cited cheers as tee-shirts bear­ing a drug-free mes­sage were tossed into the stands. Of­fi­cer Crane ex­plained that both the tee-shirts and wrist­bands that most of the stu­dents were wear­ing were pro­vided by Grand Sav­ings Bank.

Mayor Kurt Mad­dox spoke next and told the stu­dents about an ex­pe­ri­ence one of his fel­low stu­dents had with drugs. The stu­dent wanted to be­come a mem­ber of the F.B.I. but got in­volved with drugs in high school and was in­el­i­gi­ble to be con­sid­ered for the job be­cause of his prior record of drug use. Mad­dox asked for two sev­enth grade vol­un­teers to come for­ward and help him en­act the sce­nario and pre­sented them with com­mem­o­ra­tive coins for par­tic­i­pat­ing.

Mad­dox then read a procla­ma­tion des­ig­nat­ing Red Rib­bon Week. The procla­ma­tion read:

“Whereas, Sub­stance abuse is par­tic­u­larly dam­ag­ing to one of our most valu­able re­sources, our chil­dren, and a con­tribut­ing fac­tor in preventable youth deaths across the coun­try; and

“Whereas, The Na­tional Red Rib­bon Cam­paign of­fers cit­i­zens the op­por­tu­nity to demon­strate their com­mit­ment to drug-free life­styles and es­tab­lish an at­mos­phere that sup­ports aware­ness, ed­u­ca­tion and on-go­ing ini­tia­tives to pre­vent il­le­gal drug use; and

“Whereas, Red Rib­bon Week, hosted by the Gravette Pub­lic School Dis­trict, will be rec­og­nized Oc­to­ber 24-26, 2018, and

“Whereas, The stu­dents, fac­ulty and staff at Gravette Pub­lic Schools, and cit­i­zens through­out the com­mu­nity will demon­strate their com­mit­ment to healthy, drug-free life­styles dur­ing this week­long cam­paign;

“Now, there­fore, I, Kurt Mad­dox, as Mayor of the City of Gravette, do hereby pro­claim Oc­to­ber 23-26, 2018, as Red Rib­bon Week and en­cour­age all cit­i­zens to par­tic­i­pate in drug pre­ven­tion ed­u­ca­tion ac­tiv­i­ties, not only dur­ing Red Rib­bon Week, but all year long, mak­ing a vis­i­ble state­ment that this com­mu­nity and school dis­trict are strongly com­mit­ted to a drug-free, City, State and Na­tion.

“In wit­ness thereof, I have here­unto set my hand and seal on this 19th day of Oc­to­ber, 2018. Kurt Mad­dox, Mayor, City of Gravette”

Chuck Sk­aggs, Gravette po­lice chief, talked to the stu­dents about the dan­gers of neg­a­tive peer pres­sure and urged them not to give in to oth­ers who tried to get them to try some­thing they knew was not good for them. He told them Arkansas was among the top 10 states in 2017 in opi­oid over­dose deaths and said they should never try some­one else’s drugs. Al­co­hol and to­bacco are also po­ten­tial haz­ards, he said, and sug­gested that stu­dents who were hav­ing prob­lems with ei­ther one talk to the school’s great coun­selors for ad­vice. He told the young­sters that they needed to keep their minds clear and free of such dis­trac­tions if they hoped to make good grades. Sk­aggs thanked the teach­ers and ad­min­is­tra­tors at both schools and said they were do­ing a great job.

The fi­nal speaker was in­tro­duced only as “Gina.” Gina is a Ben­tonville mother and shop­per mar­keter whose son, Tris­tan, was a bas­ket­ball player, a moun­tain biker, a skate­boarder, snowboarder and wake­boarder. Un­for­tu­nately, he made bad choices and got in­volved in drugs. Tris­tan died at the age of 21 be­cause of his drug use. Af­ter his death, Gina started a group called “Speak Up Against Drugs” and speaks to var­i­ous groups to carry that mes­sage.

Gina told the stu­dents that when they make bad choices and use drugs, the drugs take over, “hi­jack” their brain and make de­ci­sions for them. This re­sults in ru­in­ing their dreams and their re­la­tion­ships, so she urged them not to put them­selves in sit­u­a­tions where they might be tempted. She sug­gested that if they were in­vited to a party where they knew drugs and al­co­hol would be of­fered that they stay home from the party and plan a dif­fer­ent type of fun ac­tiv­ity with their friends.

“Learn how to say ‘No’ to drugs and ‘Yes’ to life,” Gina urged, “so that you can grad­u­ate from high school in­stead of spend­ing time in a ju­ve­nile de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity and you can go to col­lege in­stead of to a drug treat­ment cen­ter.” She urged them to con­sult their par­ents, school coun­selors, trusted friends and the po­lice to help them make pos­i­tive life de­ci­sions. “Choose wisely,” she con­cluded, “choose life.”

At the con­clu­sion of the pro­gram, Of­fi­cer Crane in­tro­duced Carla Martinez, Mandy Car­na­han and Ch­a­sity Cochran, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Grand Sav­ings Bank, and Cochran said a prayer to con­clude the pro­gram. He told the stu­dents to have a great Red Rib­bon Week and asked them to file out qui­etly and re­spect­fully to the park­ing lot where a num­ber of emer­gency ve­hi­cles were on dis­play. The stu­dents were able to ob­serve the ve­hi­cles and to board a num­ber of them. They in­cluded emer­gency ve­hi­cles from the Ben­ton County Search and Res­cue team and from the McDon­ald County Fire De­part­ment, po­lice cars from Gravette and Siloam Springs, Gravette Fire De­part­ment fire en­gines and am­bu­lances, an R & R trans­port truck, a back­hoe, a Coca-Cola de­liv­ery truck and a he­li­copter.

Sub­mit­ted/KAY MUR­RAY

Speak­ers and spon­sors at the sub­stance abuse aware­ness assem­bly Thurs­day, Oct. 18, pause for a photo af­ter the pro­gram. Pic­tured are Gina Thomas, founder of “Speak Up Against Drugs”; Rick McLeod, Ben­ton County Drug Free direc­tor; Ch­a­sity Cochran, Grand Sav­ings Bank em­ployee; Josh Crane, Gravette El­e­men­tary School and Mid­dle School re­source of­fi­cer; Carla Martinez, Grand Sav­ings Bank man­ager; Mandy Car­na­han, Grand Sav­ings Bank em­ployee; Chuck Sk­aggs, Gravette po­lice chief; and Kurt Mad­dox, Gravette mayor.

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