Graduations begin: Deputies teach seniors life skills

Published 12:12 am Sunday, May 6, 2018

VIDALIA — Graduation season is underway. Alcorn State University held its graduation ceremony on Saturday and high schools throughout the Miss-Lou will soon be holding their graduation ceremonies.

When seniors leave high school, they often step out into a new world, sheriff’s deputies said Friday at Vidalia High School.

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That new world can be dangerous.

Knowing the basics of personal safety, Concordia Parish Chief Deputy David Hedrick told a crowd of seniors and juniors Friday, offers protection from becoming an unwitting victim.

Hedrick, Investigator John Cowan and K-9 Officer Chris Stricklin explained to the students the differences between major drugs, how to tell if a drink has been spiked, and what to do if you feel you are being stalked.

“Rohypnol is salty,” Cowan said. “If you take a sip of your drink and it tastes really salty — don’t drink it. If you see something in your drink that looks like it shouldn’t be there, don’t drink it.”

When going out at night — be it to a bar or to the library to study — keep all phones charged, Hedrick told the students.

Outside of being able to call a cab or a friend to come get you if you feel unsafe, tracking a phone is the first step for police if something goes wrong, he said.

“If you go missing, that’s our first step,” he said. “Help us help you.”

Many of the students, Hedrick said, will likely not experience stalking or drugs after high school — but some will.

“Do you know what you are putting on social media?” Cowan asked the students. “Do you know that every picture you post to Facebook has location information?”

Besides the more dire forms of self-protection, Hedrick also had deputies show students how to change a tire, how to jump a car off using jumper cables and how to check their oil.

“They need to be prepared,” said Bernie Cooley, Vidalia High School principal. “We assume our kids know these things and they don’t. My daughter is here, and I don’t know if she can change a tire. You just assume they know.”

Cooley said this event was the first one of its kind at Vidalia High School, but he wanted to bring the deputies back each year.

“It’s just too important for them not to know,” he said.

The visits to Vidalia and Monterey were the last of the deputies’ visits to area high schools before graduation.

Hedrick, who called and asked high schools if deputies could come give the presentations, said he could not take credit for the idea.

“My wife thought of it,” Hedrick said. “I can’t say I thought it up.”

Hedrick said his wife, Whitney, told him students leaving school should know how to protect themselves.

“She’s a huge advocate for making sure these kids are safe,” he said. “I didn’t know if it would be a success at first, but the students are really listening.”

After the talks in Vidalia, several students stayed outside speaking with deputies.

Juniors Malachi Matthews and Brendan Smith said they had not known how to change a tire or use jumper cables, but the information they learned during the presentation surprised them the most.

“The stalking surprised me,” Matthews said. “I didn’t know that many people were stalked each year.”

Brandon Randall, a senior, said he already knew how to change a tire, but he didn’t know that as few as 6 grams of some drugs are lethal.

“I learned a lot about the drugs,” he said. “I mean I wouldn’t have known that, you know?”

Graduation Dates

Here is a list of graduation dates for Miss-Lou schools:


Co-Lin graduation at Natchez Convention Center

May 17 

Ferriday graduation

May 18 

ACCS graduation

Vidalia graduation

Delta Charter School graduation 

May 19

Monterey High School graduation

May 24 

Trinity graduation

May 25

Natchez High School graduation

Cathedral graduation