Pubdate: Sat, 28 Oct 2006
Source: Pawtucket Times (RI)
Copyright: 2006 The Pawtucket Times
Author: Douglas Hadden
Bookmark: (D.A.R.E.)
Bookmark: (Youth)
Bookmark: (Red Ribbon Week)


PAWTUCKET - If the theory is that keeping kids busy is the key to
keeping them out of trouble and away from the temptations of drugs,
then the schoolchildren's performances to mark the end of Red Ribbon
Week were the proof.

More than 100 award-winning youngsters from city schools put on skits,
recited poems, rapped anti-drug lyrics and - in the case of
award-winning Woodlawn Catholic Regional School - performed a costumed
play complete with smoke machines and a Marley-style ghost in showing
countless creative ways to illustrate their anti-drug themes in
performances in the City Council chamber at City Hall.

The participants got a welcome from Mayor James E. Doyle, who said
later he was fortunate he had to leave before Woodlawn's Miguel Lopes
portrayed a bad-acting young ballplayer named "Drunken Jimmy Doyle"
who was scared and convinced to get off the bottle and back on the
ballfield by his peers.

Agnes Little School parent Lisa Crawly, watching her 11-year-old
daughter Hope, who won a DARE program award last year for an essay, do
a reading on resisting peer pressure, said it was a topic they also
discussed at home.

"She's getting older. She's been faced already with some issues, some
friends smoking cigarettes," and had raised questions why her
grandparents smoked. "It's definitely something we talk about, it's
not hidden. We have an open table on that."

Baldwin School students sang along so infectiously to their
anti-smoking rap that Diane Dufresne, 10-year director of the
Pawtucket Substance Abuse Task Force which annually sponors the
program, rocked back and forth to the music they made.

One teacher in the audience, Salvina Lucci, said different activities
were conducted "all week long." For the day with the "Sock It To
Drugs" theme, "they wore outrageous socks," she related.

One of her charges, grade 5 Agnes Little student Jacqueline Lopes,
recited her verse to the filled council chamber: "Come along with me,
let's be drug free/Put down the cigarette/Care about the
environment/Laughing, playing, so many things to do/Being drug free is
really great for me and you..."

As he watched seven Fallon students perform a coordinated rap, Joseph
McNamara, now principal of the Alternative Learning and allied
programs in the former Registry building and long active in the
schools' anti-drug efforts, pointed out that what the children were
learning went well beyond the no-drugs messages.

"The big thing today is you have to engage the students," said
McNamara. "They're sending their own message and listening to their
peers. It's so much more effective than lecturing to them and (saying)
just say no.

"And if you look at the activities, they're in line with the new
(schools) standards - literacy, speech. It's great for students who
are maybe English as a Second Language students, they work
collaboratively, which we know is a help. Not to mention their
creativity, which I think is self-evident."

Winning the top prize, for the 17th straight year, was Woodlawn under
grade 8 teacher Theresa Ducharme, who seemed to echo McNamara's
perspective. "It shows them that they can do well with teamwork,"
Ducharme said of her crew, "and they commit to each other. It's a
great sign of commitment for them.

Dufresne praised Ducharme's own commitment to the program. "She uses
it as an opportunity for teaching, not just about substance abuse.
They're learning history, how to speak in public."

Other schools participating included Varieur, Winters, Cunningham,
Potter Burns, Blackstone Academy Charter School (the only high school
to take part) and Goff, Slater and Jenks junior high schools.
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