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Fifth-graders learn to make ‘right choices’

By Staff | Feb 5, 2016

When you make the right choices in life, good things happen. When you make the wrong choices, well

That’s what Lee County fifth-graders learned this week at the Lee Civic Center as students from all over came for the annual Drug House Odyssey, where they saw a play on what can happen when you drink and drive.

Drug Houses Odyssey is one of the biggest anti-substance abuse events in Lee County and it talks about making the right choices in the form of a play performed by students at Mariner and Ida Baker high schools.

“We kick it up a notch by using the actual people in the community who do these jobs every day,” said Deb Comella, executive director of the Lee County Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida. “We use deputies, police officers, firefighters, so it’s cool for the kids to see these heroes in action.”

Dan Mills, board member of the Lee County Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida, said this is the signature event for the organization as prevention starts at fifth grade.

“It’s when they have an opportunity to make destructive decisions and we do what we can to show the consequences of what a destructive decision can do to your life. We take it very seriously and we guide them in the right way,” Mills said.

The kids saw a party scene, where some kids make the right choices and some don’t. Those who don’t ended up getting arrested for drunk driving and sent to jail, while others get into an accident and are injured or killed, their lives ruined or over.

There was also a scene added this year where the passenger was in the hospital and doctors were unable to revive her.

Timothy Sharpe was among the students with a role, playing the big brother who tells his sister not to hang out with his older drinking buddies.

“I’m glad to be a part of it. It’s important to tell these kids about poor decisions like drinking and driving. Trying to work them away from drinking is a good choice,” Sharp said.

The 20th Circuit District district attorneys, Cape Coral Police Department, Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Bayshore Fire & Rescue and Lee County EMS were among the real-life heroes who took part.

Patrick O’Grady, a sergeant with the Cape Coral Police Department Traffic Unit, participated in the sobriety check scene, where he “arrests” a “drunk driver.”

“Fifth grade is an important year because it’s the year before middle school and they’ll be around a lot of kids who have different scenarios. They may have seen this with their parents,” O’Grady said.

Sheriff’s Office personnel escorted the kids to each scene, telling them what just happened and the consequences of their actions.

“We’ve been involved in the Drug Odyssey program for more than 20 years. These are mostly resource officers who are in the schools and interact with the students on a daily basis and this is another way to guide the children to make smart choices,” said LCSO Sgt. Thomas Tucker.

While the students were learning, the teachers were as well. Kristi Lampkins, teacher at Tropic Isles Elementary School in North Fort Myers, said the teachers recognize the importance of this because many of their students are from low socio-economic backgrounds.

“Many students have family members who have had contact with drugs and alcohol. We need the kids to see the police officers in a positive way and avoid the situations this play showed,” Lampkins said.

The children from Tropic Isles got the message through these sobering tales (pun intended).

“I learned not to drink and drive because you can get in a crash. And you need to wear your seat belt. You need to make good choices because they have serious consequences,” Rayna Patterson said.

“We learned not to do drugs and not to drink and drive. You can hurt yourself or hurt someone else,” said John Kaye.

“If you drink and drive, you will face the consequences. If you make good decisions you can follow your dreams,” said Daries Stittiams of Cape Coral.