Tahoe-Truckee students asked to just say no | SierraSun.com

Tahoe-Truckee students asked to just say no

Andrew Cristancho
Sierra Sun

Emma Garrard/Sierra SunMelinda Maehler, Placer County community services officer, speaks with North Tahoe High School students at a planning meeting Tuesday for the Red Ribbon Dinner. The dinner raises money to supplement Sheriff's department funding for drug and alcohol prevention programs and safety classes.

Over 30 students who pledged to avoid alcohol and illicit drugs sat around a conference table at North Tahoe Middle School Tuesday, planning an annual anti-drug banquet with a school resource officer.

Deputy Melinda Maehler was helping the students plan Placer County Sheriff’s Red Ribbon fundraising dinner, scheduled for 6 Thursday evening at the Kings Beach Community Center.

The annual dinner, resumed this year after a one-year hiatus, publicizes the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District’s drug education policy.

“Our Youth Development and Prevention Programs are in line with the district’s goals for a safe and healthy learning environment,” said district Director of Community Youth Development Laurie Martin.

Martin said the district adopted a new approach to drug education last year based on findings from the last California Healthy Kids Survey of students.

She said they survey found that many students were interested in how to deal with depression and issues relating to suicide. She said that insight has led to a new movement of “prevention from the inside out.”

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“A lot of the training we are doing focuses on the power of thought and the student’s well-being,” Martin said.

The district’s primary drug-use prevention program, Second Step, emphasizes teaching coping skills to students from kindergarten through fifth grade. Martin said the goal is to teach children empathy, which helps them make better decision for themselves.

The district offers the programs year-round, but publicizes drug education during a nine-day period in late October called Red Ribbon Week. The oldest and largest drug-prevention campaign in the nation, the Red Ribbon Campaign reaches millions of young people each year, according to the National Family Partnership’s Web site.

Martin said the school district works with several private and public agencies to implement its programs that focus on substance abuse and violence prevention.

Participating agencies include the Placer Sheriff’s Office, Truckee Police Department, Tahoe Women’s Services, Sierra Family Services and the Nevada and Placer County health departments.

Placer County Sheriff’s Sgt. Helen Thomson is involved this week by reaching out to community and youth. In a phone interview, Thomson said today’s Red Ribbon Dinner will kick off the week’s activities, and could raise $6,000 for various drug and alcohol education programs.

According to Administrative Secretary Debi Moore of the Placer Sheriff’s Office, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, or DARE, starts in kindergarten, with community service officers discussing the potential hazards of drug and alcohol use, along with general safety instruction.

In the district’s middle and high schools, students can choose to participate in the Youth in Action program, which asks students to pledge to remain free of drug and alcohol.

To celebrate the extended week of drug-abuse awareness and violence prevention, Tahoe-Truckee middle and elementary school students will make poster quilts with anti-drug messages.

The schools will also conduct a drug- and alcohol-free pledge drive ” signing as many new recruits as they can. Some students, who have been affected negatively by drugs or alcohol in their lives, will make reports to different classrooms about their experiences.

On Oct. 29, students from Alder Creek Middle School and Sierra High will participate in an anti-drug march along Donner Pass Road, with a “Don’t Drink, Wear Pink” theme.

“Kids want to get the word out that not everybody is doing drugs,” Martin said.