Pubdate: Sat, 29 Oct 2011
Source: Ledger-Enquirer (Columbus, GA)
Copyright: 2011 Ledger-Enquirer
Authors: Jim Mustian and Larry Gierer
Bookmark: http://www.


Students "too cool" for cocaine and other addictive drugs wore 
sunglasses to school Wednesday to "shade out" narcotics. Others wore 
red and competed in poster contests and other activities designed to 
underscore the benefits of living a drug-free lifestyle.

It was all part of the Muscogee County School District's observance 
of Red Ribbon Week, the annual campaign that teaches students at an 
early age the dangers of substance abuse.

Students often encounter drugs for the first time on the schoolyard, 
and local school officials say they want youth to know as much as 
possible about the risks before they're tempted to take even one hit.

At Carver High School, announcements were made each day giving 
statistics about the dangers of drug use.

Interviews with a half a dozen high school students Friday suggest 
drugs remain widely available. But several students said campaigns 
like Red Ribbon Week are a worthwhile means of combating drug abuse.

Students at Carver encounter drugs, particularly marijuana, said 
Anthony Kimble, a 17-year-old junior who plays football and runs 
track at the south Columbus school.

"It's before school and after school," said Anthony, who wants to 
study mortuary science.

Kimble said that when someone offers to sell him drugs, he tells them 
"it's not good for you." He said the person will say "try it" but 
Anthony knows just one try can lead to disaster.

Kimble added that some students start using because they see their 
parents taking them.

"Some parents just don't care," said La-teria Gill, a 16-year-old 
junior at Carver who plans to go to college and the Air Force. "A 
student will say 'My mom does it, so it's OK.'"

She said she knows students who have gotten mixed up with drugs and 
they are now out of school working a job with low pay and little future.

"Drugs are killing this generation," La-teria said.

Cayley McCelos, a 17-year-old junior and teen advisor at Carver, said 
Red Ribbon Week is effective, but the student, who wants to be a 
counselor one day, thinks one week is not enough.

"You've got to keep reminding people," she said. "You need to get the 
message out."

One of the most effective anti-drug campaigns of late has been the 
billboard messages posted in Columbus by the Georgia Meth Project, 
said three students at Northside High School. One ominous depiction 
of a filthy public restroom read: "No one thinks they'll lose their 
virginity here. Meth will change that."

That nonprofit campaign released a survey in June that showed 52 
percent of Georgia teens saw "great risk" in taking meth just once or 
twice, up 11 points from a survey taken before the advertisements went viral.

"The posters scare me," said Emily Fitts, a 17-year-old senior at Northside.

Emily plans to apply to the University of Georgia and wants to study 
journalism. She doesn't hang around crowds that use drugs, but she 
says anti-drug campaigns are important because they reach students at 
an impressionable point in their lives.

"It's a really confusing time, figuring out what you want to do with 
your life," Emily said. "A lot of teens are faced with a lot of tough 
things: their parents going through divorce or death in the family.

"Substance abuse is something that helps them cope with and kind of 
forget about it," she added, "but they don't see the negative effects 
of it until later on, which is really sad."

Demonstrating the effects of drugs and alcohol abuse can also be an 
effective deterrent, the students said. Gabby Wilson, a 16-year-old 
Northside junior who is editor of the student newspaper, recalls 
being taken aback after trying on a pair of "drunk goggles."

"How are you even going to be able to walk like this, much less 
drive?" she asked. "If you've never done any kind of drug, you don't 
know what kind of person you'll be. That's what's really scary to 
think about. You could be completely different."

Carver's La-teria said her peers are influenced greatly by rappers 
and references to drugs in pop culture.

Fifth-graders at Fox Elementary School competed in a contest this 
week in which they wrote a rap song about being drug free, according 
to a schedule of activities.

Christopher Cowell, a 16-year-old Northside junior who also wants to 
go into the military, offered some advice for students confronted 
with unrelenting peer pressure: "Just tell them 'No,'" he said. "If 
they don't agree with it, they're honestly not your true friend."
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