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Vidalia students pledge to be drug-free

VIDALIA — A group of 141 fifth-grade students from Vidalia Upper Elementary made pledges to be drug-free Thursday afternoon after their recent completion of a 12-week anti-drug course.

The students stood in front of their parents, fellow classmates and teachers as they graduated from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program at school.

This year marked the 20th year Concordia Parish has celebrated at a graduation ceremony for the students.

VUE was one of four schools in the parish that had fifth-grade students graduate from the program.

Ferriday Upper Elementary School had its ceremony Wednesday, while Ridgecrest School and Monterey High School will have theirs today.

Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office Lt. Uzella Frazier, a 13-year D.A.R.E. officer, opened the ceremony by describing how the program works.

“This program is about educating children at a younger age about the dangers of drugs and alcohol,” she said. “We teach prevention over intervention.”

Frazier said the program teaches children that marijuana, alcohol and cigarettes are gateway drugs that usually lead to harder substances.

“They are aware of the dangers drugs can have to their body, mind and futures,” she said.

CPSO Sheriff Randy Maxwell was originally scheduled to be the guest speaker, but could not attend because he had business in Baton Rouge.

CPSO Chief and five-year D.A.R.E. officer Bobby Sheppard said if Maxwell was at the meeting he would have one thing to say.

“I know he would tell all the parents here to go home and tell your children you love them,” he said. “We have to stand by and support them in their lives.”

Vidalia Police Chief Arthur Lewis also spoke to the students, which was an added bonus since Lewis’ son Austin graduated from the program shortly after his father’s speech.

“Right around your age is when I decided what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” Lewis said to the students. “You need to remember the things you do and say will affect you for the rest of your life so remember to make good decisions.”

Lewis also spoke to the parents in attendance.

“The (DARE officers) are doing what we as parents need to be doing,” he said. “We need to teach our children the facts. It may not be easy, but sometimes you have to be able to share the hard facts with your children.”

Lewis then had the students stand and tell their parents that they loved them before the essay winner was announced.

LaNya Jones won the contest and confidently read her essay on what she learned in DARE to the crowd.

“You can get many types of sicknesses from smoking and drinking,” she said. “Don’t drink, don’t smoke, be respectful and if someone offers you drugs, just say no.”

Awards were also given to three students in the poster category. Kelsi Cavazos won first place, Loyd Caldwell won second and Lindsay May won third.

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