Samantha Tschirgi received the honor of the Ronald Stoffel Essay Award out of 30 fifth graders who completed a drug abuse awareness program.
Four girls from Central Community School in Elkader received medals for their essays on what they learned about drugs, alcohol and tobacco at the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) Graduation Ceremony, on March 13.
All 30 children had to write an essay to graduate the eight to ten week course that culminated in the graduation ceremony which was held in the high school auditorium. Investigator Ryan Johnson, of the Clayton County Sheriff’s Department, and DARE Officer, Paul Bazyn both spoke at the event.
Four girls read out their essays; Briana Miene and Samantha Tschirgi, students of Mr. Bauder – and Kinsey Jeurgens, and Maizy Zakrzewski, students of Mrs. Gibney.
“If I do drugs I will not succeed,” said first place winner Samantha. “I’m glad that we have DARE to help,” she added.
“You will have to face consequences with your parents or even go to jail. Taking drugs is a lot worse than it sounds, that is what I learnt from this program,” said Maizy.
“It is important to stay away from alcohol, tobacco and marijuana,” said Briana.
“I have learned that drugs and alcohol can be bad for your health. I will not drink or do drugs because I want to be a healthy person,” said Kinsey.
One student present at the event, ten-year-old Jessica Wegmann, had this to say after the ceremony:
“It’s really harmful to your body and to people around you to do things. Smoking can give you lung cancer and heart disease and meth has really disgusting products like drain cleaner,” she said.
When asked what things they done during the program that enabled them to learn these things, one student, Johnny Haid, said:
“We learned about marijuana, meth amphetamine, what they can do, we watched movies and that there is battery acid in it and a lot of other stuff. You put on goggles to see what it is like when your drunk and you see double stuff, we couldn’t pick up the keys. We played silent ball with the goggles and no-one could catch the ball,’ he explained.
Officer Bazyn said during his speech that you think that you can stop using drugs at any time – and he also talked about peer pressure.
“That is when it will be the hardest,” he said. “Parents you too have a roll, approach your children calmly and talk about fears and consequences but do not preach,” he explained.
He advised parents that things to watch out for were secretiveness and being less responsible; he said that parents should watch for changes in friends. He closed by emphasizing that parents should help their children find the tools to get out of difficult situations and to make sure that the parties that their children frequented, were alcohol free.
As he prepared to hand out the medals for the best graduation essays he said that it is getting harder every year to judge these essays. All the children who graduated received a certificate. Those children who participated in simulating the experience of quitting drugs by giving up caffeine and soda throughout the program received a large bar of Hershey’s Chocolate.
Investigator Johnson who also gave a short speech thanked the teachers for working in this program to their schedule and the parents for their support.
The program although initiated here by officer Bazyn was coordinated by Kay Moser for 15 years before Bauder took over.
Closing the event, K-6 Principal, Troy Lentell, said:
“You will be faced with a choice to make…My hope is that you will think back to this time and this piece of paper [certificate] and that you will be able to say no,” he said.
The children, all of whom were wearing their DARE shirts, posed for their photo on the stage, before heading to the home economics room for cookies and juice.