Students kick off drug-free observance
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.
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.