Making the right choices
Lee County fifth-graders got a lesson in making the right choices and the consequences of doing otherwise last week, thanks to the Lee County Coalition for a Drug Free Southwest Florida a virtual army of volunteers.
Law enforcement, EMS, fire personnel and high school students presented Drug House Odyssey, a serious of performances on what can happen if you choose to drink or do drugs.
Deb Camilla, executive director of coalition, said the program presented this year at the Lee Civic Center has been in existence for 24 years. It gives children and parents an opportunity to talk about making good choices.
“We hope it’s an opportunity for parents and teachers to talk to kids about making good choices and what they would do in that situation,” Camilla said. “The number of kids drinking has gone down in the last 10 years. We’re hoping programs like this can continue to impact the data and make the numbers continue to drop.”
Students at Mariner High School played the roles of the young people making the wrong choices.
Lexi Falance said she knew someone who had a drug and drinking problem when she was younger.
“I thought this would be a good way to get out there that doing drugs is a bad thing to do,” Falance said. “I hope people learn that drinking and driving is a bad idea.”
One of the characters enacted, Travis Davis, is caught with illegal drugs as well as driving under the influence. In court, the judge sentences him and says that she cannot guarantee that he will be allowed to keep his basketball scholarship to NYU.
For Mariner’s Nehemiah Darrett, who plays Travis, the role had lots of impact, as he is going to play basketball at NYU on a scholarship in real life.
“It’s interesting how things are set up if you are actually arrested. Since I have scholarships, if this really happened, I would tear up,” Darrett said. “Everyone should come see this.”
Officer Andrew Satterlee of the Cape Coral Police Department conducted the DUI arrest scene.
He said fifth-grade is when kids become more knowledgeable of the world around them, and they see the habits of friends and family.
“They need to have a good, positive starting ground once they get older and see the bad things that can happen if they decide to drink and drive,” Satterlee said. “Years down the road, kids remember this. I’ve stopped a few kids coming home from parties and they remember me from this.”
Jennifer Justham, an assistant state attorney, played the judge along with Wendy Jones, who has just started with the state attorney’s office.
Justham has been part of Drug House Odyssey for six years. She said it’s the perfect opportunity to teach fifth graders consequences.
“They’re going into middle school and with that brings peer pressure. You need to go to a party or hang out with your friends. They need to know there are consequences for their actions,” Justham said. “DUIs are very prevalent in Lee County. We handle a lot of that, and it’s dangerous not only for yourself but to others on the road as well.”
The story gets dark when there’s a car crash that results in the death of a teen girl. For many of the fifth graders, that’s when the impact really hit them.
The North Fort Myers Fire Department and Lee County EMS conducted that scene. For Fire Chief David Rice, whose department has switched off with Bayshore, said this could happen to those who drink and drive.
“Young children just learn it’s very hazardous and there can be serious injury and even death,” Rice said. “This is a great thing that teaches children and this has a tremendous impact.”
As for the students, Cheyanne Barrett, whose mother, Evie, works at Treeline Elementary School in Fort Myers, said she learned not to drink and drive.
“You can get really hurt or die. The car crash scene showed that someone can die from this,” Cheyanne said.
“As a parent, it’s hard to know I can’t control every decision my daughter makes. While she’s a good kid, I recognize the influence other kids may have on her,” Evie said. “It’s something that will be discussed on a regular basis because she’s going to middle school and I won’t be there as a staff member to watch who she’s hanging out with.”