Drug House Odyssey illustrates impact of choices
Every decision made in life has consequences. Some are good, some bad.
This past week, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, along with the Lee County Coalition for a Drug Free Southwest Florida, multiple agencies and students from Mariner High School, showed thousands of Lee County fifth-graders the ramifications of making the wrong decisions when it comes to drinking and driving.
The Drug House Odyssey, held at the Lee Civic Center, has been held for the last 22 years to show young people the effects of drinking and driving, none of them very pleasant.
Deb Comella, executive director of the Lee County Coalition for a Drug Free Southwest Florida said the event is a walk-through play which took the fifth-graders on a journey through the many things that can happen by making the wrong choices.
“What makes this different is we use our actual heroes, EMS, firefighters and police to give the kids a look at not only what happens when you drink and drive, but our heroes, too,” Comella said.
Lt. Mike Miller, of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Youth Services division, said his department served as chaperones at each scene during the three-day odyssey.
“We discuss what happened during the scene and afterward they talk about the choices they have to make in the future,” Miller said. “They get to see a visual aid of what happens if you make the wrong choices and reinforce the need to make the right choices.”
The actors were members of the Mariner High School drama club, led by teacher Patricia Stout, who said the school has taken part in this event for several years.
The actors are portrayed having a party. In the next scene one of them gets arrested for DUI and is seen going to jail in the courthouse scene. There also is an accident with the girls where one of them is unconscious.
“They take this seriously and they get into it so the fifth graders say they were impressed with the reality of the situation,” Stout said.
Freshman Riley Poling played the drunken sister who ends up unresponsive in the car. She was happy to teach the kids what happens when they make bad choices.
“I’m so anti-drug so hopefully it will teach them something,” Poling said. “I hope they learn something. Don’t do drugs.”
In the courtroom scene, Devin George with the State’s Attorney’s office played the defense attorney, with assistant state attorney Jenny Forsythe played the judge. She said her office has been involved since the beginning.
“We’re really happy to work with the coalition and it’s nice to see the kids get involved,” George said. “We show the crown what can happen when a juvenile gets a DUI and what they can lose, such as their driver’s license, scholarships and their freedom.”
Students from North Fort Myers and Cape Coral came Thursday for the event. Robin Heller, a teacher at Caloosa Elementary, said the real firefighters and deputies really brought the event to life.
“They were talking to the kids about reality. What they saw told them they had to make the choices,” Heller said. “A lot of kids said how sad that was. I think it got through to them.”
The students, to whom the event was geared, got a lot out of it.
“Don’t drink and drive because you can die and it can have an effect on your life,” Said Colton Buzzard of Caloosa Middle School. “The ambulance got to me because it showed you should listen to your family.”
“We shouldn’t make bad choices and if we make good choices, we’ll stay healthy and strong,” said Ed Ahmedrahman, fifth-grader at North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts. “If you drink and drive you can get arrested.”
After many years at various churches in Cape Coral, John Engh, chairman of the board for the coalition, said he hopes the Drug House Odyssey has found a permanent home at the civic center.
“Moving here allows us to expand the operation. It’s a good educational experience. It teaches the kids to make the right decisions. It’s geared toward the fifth-graders, since it is our target audience,” Engh said.