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Local students attend Drug House Odyssey; Dangers of drug, alcohol use

By Staff | Apr 2, 2008

Hundreds of middle school students from across the county attended the opening day of the Drug House Odyssey on Tuesday. The educational program, which is being held on the grounds of Cape Christian Fellowship Church, is organized by the Lee County Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida.

The odyssey offered students the opportunity see what effect drugs and alcohol have on the body and mind. Deborah Comella, director of public awareness for the coalition, said there were participants from every part of the public and private sector — students, parents, teachers, law enforcement officials and politicians.

“The odyssey is a play that shows the effect of underage drinking and driving from a party to the morgue,” explained Comella. “We don’t recommend the odyssey for younger students because it is intense.”

Students from different schools are taken in small groups through different presentations given by local police, the Florida Highway Patrol, the U.S. Coast Guard and representatives from Southwest Florida Addiction Services.

There was also a town hall meeting Tuesday afternoon where local politicians and dignitaries discussed underage drinking. The meeting was one of 6,000 being coordinated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in communities across the country.

“We decided to have the town hall meeting part of the Drug House Odyssey,” said Comella.

Comella explained that most of the participating students were in eighth grade, but some fifth-grade students enrolled in the DARE program were also invited to attend. Members of the community can tour the odyssey from 6 to 9 p.m. today and Thursday.

In one of the odyssey’s stations, Thomas Petro, 10, and Madison Milroy, 10, both fifth-graders at Skyline Elementary, were able to wear the “drunk goggles” that offer a glimpse of what it is like to be intoxicated.

Once they put on the goggles, the students were asked to walk a straight line across a crack in the cement.

“It felt sort of blurry,” explained Thomas. “Then it was sort of hard staying on track because you lose your train of thought.”

Thomas added that he has no interest in trying drugs or alcohol after experiencing their effects first-hand wearing the goggles.

Madison also tried on the goggles minutes after Thomas finished. She said that she felt everything was sideways.

“I tried walking on the line twice, and I didn’t do it,” said Madison.

Those students waiting their turn to try on the goggles were able to look at photographs showing the effects of methamphetamine and marijuana on internal organs and a user’s physical appearance.

One photograph showed how a woman looked after years of methamphetamine use while another showed the affect of drinking on the liver or smoking marijuana on the lungs.

Luzcelina Garcia, prevention specialist for Southwest Florida Addiction Services, was helping students put on the goggles. She just recently started working for SWFAS and believes that the information is important for the children.

“I think this is very good information for them,” Garcia said, “especially if they aren’t exposed to it and they don’t know how to handle an issue.”

Prevention programs are especially important for SWFAS because the organization’s main service center in Cape Coral caters to addicts under the age of 18.

Other groups of students took turns climbing on a boat from the U.S. Coast Guard stationed on Fort Myers Beach. Coast Guard representatives BM3 Kecken and MK3 Bouxsein were giving student tours of the boat’s interior.

“We are doing tours of the Coast Guard boat, letting people know what we do,” said Kecken.

Kecken explained that some of their duties include homeland security, drug and immigration enforcement, regulating speeds and safety, and pulling people over for boating while intoxicated.

Florida Highway Patrol Officer Lucy Papp demonstrated to students what happens when a car rolls in an accident. For this presentation, four crash dummies sat in an old car that was repeatedly flipped upside down. Only one dummy was buckled in with a seat belt and as the car flipped, each of the unfastened dummies tumbled out of the car.

“Anybody see Dad bounce out the side of the car?” Papp asked the students. “It’s not whether or not you’re wearing a seat belt, but whether everyone in the car is.”

Papp explained to the students that every two minutes and 17 seconds an accident happens in the United States.

Kim Williams and 11 students from her Web design class at High Tech North were also awarded for their hard work in redesigning the coalition’s Web site (www.drugfreeswfl.org). According to Williams, the Web site the students designed took 10 days to build and will be in use starting April 15.

Sloan Kinnard, a commercial arts student at High Tech North, was also awarded for designing the Drug House Odyssey’s advertising logo.

The Drug House Odyssey runs until April 3 at 2110 Chiquita Blvd. For more information, call 573-8747.