By Curt Yeomans
Students at Hawthorne Elementary School spent last week writing poems, preparing songs and chants, and making posters to warn their classmates about the dangers of illicit drugs.
Those activities culminated on Friday with an anti-drug pep rally at the end of the school day for third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders. Students sang songs and chants, gave brief speeches on the dangers of such drugs as marijuana, cocaine and heroin. They cheered as some of their teachers got up and did the "Cupid Shuffle" dance. Nineteen members of Lovejoy High School's marching band also performed at the pep rally.
"The purpose of all of the activities we did, was to show them they can do anything besides drugs and be successful," said School Guidance Counselor Michael Thompson, one of the organizers of the school's anti-drug campaign. "If you do drugs, you can't be a positive citizen in the community."
Students studied the subject during the past week, as part of their state-mandated curriculum for health classes. Last week was also Red Ribbon Week, in which anti-drug awareness is promoted in schools across the country.
"We were already working on our drug awareness lesson, so we just correlated our lesson with Red Ribbon Week," said third-grade teacher, Sharon Lee. "We taught the students about good drugs and bad drugs, because not all drugs are bad. There are prescription drugs that people take as medicine."
During the pep rally, fifth-grader, Vincent Seay, 10, the grandson of State Sen. Valencia Seay (D-Riverdale), stood behind a podium with a large, red ribbon on it, and explained what he learned in school this week.
"The dangers are very severe, if you do drugs," he said. "Most people, who are doing drugs, either end up in jail, or dead. It also can stop you from reaching your goals. If you plan on being a musician, for example, you can't do drugs, because they will mess up your lungs."
Third-grader, Zoe Hilton, 8, made a game board-like, anti-drug poster for her classmates, to help educate them on the "good" and "bad" types of drugs that people can take. The poster includes a spinning dial in the center, with numbers 1-10 on the dial. Whichever number is in front of an arrow when the dial stops spinning tells the player which drug to pick up from pockets at the top of the poster.
The drugs ranged from marijuana and cocaine, to caffeine and cough syrup. A player has to decide whether the drug belongs in a "Good Drugs" pocket, or a "Bad Drugs" pocket.
"I'm hoping my classmates will play this game, and learn how 'Bad Drugs' are bad for you, and 'Good Drugs' are good for you," Hilton said. "It's an educational game, because it teaches people how not to do bad drugs."
Fifth-grader, Corbin Barker, 11, who emceed the pep rally, said the anti-drug lessons at the school were helpful because he got to learn what drugs can do to a person, and how they can affect a person's aspirations for the future.
"I've learned drugs are terribly dangerous," Barker said. "I'm not going to do drugs. That's a waste of time, and life."