19th annual Drug Store Project for South Lake Tahoe 6th graders another success – South Tahoe Now

California National Guard at South Tahoe Middle School
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – I’ve been involved in anti-drug and resiliency development with our youth for over 35 years and I’ve come to a horrible conclusion – no matter how hard many of us work to rid our community of drug use, drugs are always going to plague our youth; they will never go away.
When I was younger, I thought for sure that our army of people would eliminate them around our kids. Boy was I wrong. It’s become worse and more confusing for our young people and there’s only one way to protect them and that’s with education. They need factual, scientific information to make the decisions that will keep them healthy and safe. They need this information consistently from parents, teachers, and a community that supports its youth to be drug-free.
We are working to accomplish this through an annual drug prevention event that is community-based. The Drug Store Project is an anti-drug/anti-destructive behavior event. The event’s year-long planning process involves 45+ agencies, service clubs, and 225 volunteers annually. These combined efforts have provided our reality-based scenarios for 325 sixth-grade youth each year since 2003. This entire program is financially supported through grants and donations.
The Drug Store Project is a series of vignettes that students experience first-hand. Each vignette is approximately 11 minutes in length. Systematically students move in groups of 30 through the “story-line” for the day where they witness a student, their peer, make the choice to use drugs and the consequences that can occur due to that choice. The location chosen for this event, Lake Tahoe Community College, is a deliberate one. We want students to focus on the future and all the possibilities ahead of them. The college location brings many, their first experience of being on our college campus.
Our kids are faced with so much these days; our families are under more stress. Drugs and alcohol for many are seen as a fix or way to escape. It is the Drug Store Project team’s belief that they are not. The message to our youth is simple: the choices they make will always be theirs. They have the choice to ignore negative pressure when something doesn’t feel right. They have the choice to choose the direction they want to take their lives. They have the choice to let adults know when they need help with tough situations. They have the choice not to get involved with drugs, alcohol, and other destructive behaviors.
COVID and all its restraints over the past two years may have stopped us from providing our youth with our live event at Lake Tahoe Community College, but it didn’t stop our team from providing the annual event to our youth in another format. Thanks to the creative agency, Tahoe Production House, we worked with agencies to develop videos of The Drug Store Project to safely keep our education and message going.
This last week I was joined by the Counter Drug Task Force of the California National Guard as we presented our information to both the 6th-grade youth at George Whittell High School and South Tahoe Middle School. The presentations were well received by both audiences and youth have gained life-saving information thanks to the 45 agencies and 225 agency and community volunteers who make this event happen each year with one goal in mind; that at least one family doesn’t receive a call from the coroner that their child has died.
Drugs and alcohol are a problem here in Tahoe. They are a problem for our kids and a problem for our community. This last year alone I know several families, longtime residents, who have lost their adult children to overdoses and we’ve also lost youth who still attended our schools. Many of our kids have siblings, parents, and people they love who use and abuse. It’s very confusing for them. We make it very clear to our kids that good people can make bad choices. We want our kids to stop and think before repeating a behavior that can harm them.
Trust me when I say, no family is safe from the pain of losing a child to drugs and alcohol; no one. This is a problem that crosses all spectrums in our society, and we can’t be complacent just because we “think” our family is safe. And even if your family is drug-free, drugs affect you. They cost us all in lives cut short, and they are a financial cost to our country, and we are all paying for both. Drugs are a direct linkage to much of the mental illness and homelessness in our county, the rising costs of insurance, loss of productivity, and medical costs.
If you’d like to learn more about this program or if you’d like to see The Drug Store Project videos that were presented to the students, please go to our website at www.drugstoreproject.org. We hope that more communities would provide an event such as this for their youth, so please share.
If you have any questions or comments, you can reach me, Lisa Huard, Drug Store Project Coordinator, at tahoedsp@gmail.com. If you’d like to volunteer for next year’s program on Tuesday, March 28, 2023, at Lake Tahoe Community college simply go here. We’d love to have you join us. And if you’d like to support this amazing program in our community, and become a 2023 Sponsor or Donor, please contact me. I’m happy to put your money to use in saving the life and future of a kid.
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