More than 360 fifth graders from Van Buren, Staunton, Eastside, Meridian, Clay City, Jackson Township, Forest Park and Cornerstone Christian Academy schools and members of Northview, North Clay and Clay City SADD chapters marched to the Clay County courthouse, along National Ave. in celebration of Red Ribbon Week on Monday morning.
By DIANE DIERKS
Nearly 400 fifth graders from local schools spent Monday morning learning about the dangers of drugs and alcohol at the Clay County courthouse.
The program began with a march from the YMCA to the courthouse, along National Ave. Once students arrived, they were greeted by community agencies, medical staff, city, state and county law enforcement, probation and community corrections, court and government officials, volunteer firemen, land and air rescue workers and members of Students Against Destructive Decisions.
City Attorney Joe Trout read the official proclamation of Red Ribbon Week from the courthouse steps and then students broke into groups and visited different sites to learn about the pitfalls of bad choices.
Students saw a demonstration of a hazardous materials suit in the Clay Circuit courtroom and Indiana State Police Trooper Chris Carter, Prosecutor Lee Reberger and Judge Robert Pell gave a presentation that outlined the physical and chemical dangers of methamphetamine labs. John Tabasco, of Community Corrections, showed kids how GPS tracking bracelets are used to monitor the locations of people.
Dr. Raymond L. Dennany, III and substance abuse counselor Steve Sutherland showed students a film in the Clay Superior courtroom that explained how methamphetamine can destroy teeth and gum tissue beyond repair in as little as 6-8 months. Students also listened to Ashley Sharp, a young lady who became involved in drugs and is now in recovery. Judge Blaine Akers said, "It's important how you choose your friends." Peer pressure is one of the biggest reasons kids first try drugs and alcohol.
Outside the courthouse, students inspected an ambulance, law enforcement vehicles and the Air Evac Lifeteam helicopter. Medical personnel shared with students what happens to the body when people become impaired and have to receive emergency medical care.
Clay County Sheriff's Deputy Josh Clarke and his canine partner, Forrest, taught students how they track illegal drugs and search for missing persons, while members of the Northview, North Clay and Clay City SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) chapters demonstrated the effects of alcohol and drugs through the use of an obstacle course that required participants to wear goggles to simulate impaired vision.
SADD member Courtney Sutherlin summed up the day's events when she said, "It's a great turnout this year and it spreads a lot of awareness, especially to young kids. That's why I'm involved."