• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

WCMS students learn consequences of poor choices

Eighth-graders at Woodford County Middle School learned about the “Truth & Consequences” of making a poor choice to use illegal drugs during a special program in their school’s gym March 1.

Mandy Shea and her son, Kai, were told by Kentucky State Police troopers someone arrested for possessing drugs in a school zone can face up to 10 years in prison.

“It’s just a good lesson,” said Shea. Beyond any jail time a person may serve, she said other people in the community will know what you did.

“That’s a big consequence,” Shea said.

Organized by the Woodford County Cooperative Extension Service with support from its community partners, “Truth & Consequences:

The Choice is Yours” allowed parents and adult volunteers to accompany students so both could hear what happens to a teen when they make a poor choice to use drugs or alcohol.

The answers came from first-responders and others in the community who deal with the consequences of bad choices every day.

Cheryl Shanes and Amanda Shackleford, emergency room nurses at Bluegrass Community Hospital, talked to students about what they must do to treat someone who’s overdosed.

“It’s not a fun sight,” said Shanes. “We also show them pictures of what it looks like to be unconscious and on a ventilator, and parents having to say goodbye for the last time.”

Even in a small community like Versailles, Shanes said, “We see overdoses all the time. I can’t even imagine the bigger hospitals, what they see.”

She said many young people die of a drug overdose after taking something unfamiliar to them for the very first time.

“There’s nothing more heartbreaking than not to be able to revive a child from a senseless drug choice,” said paramedic and Woodford County EMS Director Freeman Bailey.

“Truth & Consequences” was an opportunity for Midway pharmacist Ken Glass, a father of two young children, and other health professionals to explain how pills or even marijuana may not be what teens think they are – before making a bad decision that hurts them or someone else.

“Substance abuse,” said Elizabeth Coots, UK Extension agent for family and consumer sciences, “it doesn’t affect just one person, and we want the kids in the community to think about that.”

Created by the UK Extension office in Clinton County about 12 years ago, Coots described “Truth & Consequences” as “a piece of the puzzle for combating substance abuse.”

WCMS Principal Tracy Bruno said he welcomed the program in his school because he wanted eighth-grade students to have a better understanding of the long-term ramifications of making a poor decision.

“I want them to have an opportunity to see, with a warning, what could happen,” said Bruno. “This is all fictional right now, but this stuff happens all of the time. Don’t make the same mistake a lot of your peers did.” He said all he had to do was look in the eyes of students to understand how they had no idea what can happen to them if they choose to bring pills to school.

“I think for a lot of our kids, they’re going to probably think back to this opportunity if they’re at that crossroads in the future,” said Bruno.

“Do I make the wrong decision or the right decision?

“... Hopefully (this experience) will help them make the right decision.”

Woodford County Sheriff Deputy Ricky Vaught described last Friday’s event as an opportunity to inform students and their parents about the negative effects illegal drug use has had on our community and across the country. “We’ve got to continually do what we can to make a difference in our community,” he explained.

Vaught talked to students about what happens to someone when they’re arrested on drug charges. They’re restrained with handcuffs and shackles before being transported to the Woodford County Detention Center, where their freedom gets taken away.

“The reality of it,” said Deputy Jailer Lt. Charlina Foster, “that’s the biggest thing. The looks on their faces ...”

“Truth & Consequences” happens as these eighth-graders prepare to make the transition from middle to high school, when they’re likely to face more peer pressure to make a bad decision.

“Think about the consequences,” said Vaught. He described this as forum for law enforcement, emergency services and other first-responders to remind young people of what can happen to them and others around them if they make a poor decision.

“They have no idea of the impact (illegal drug use) has, not just on them, but on their family, on the others that it may effect,” said Woodford County Attorney Alan George.

He said teens need to hear more about the consequences of making a poor decision like choosing to use an illegal drug.

“Make good choices,” said Vaught, “and that’s what it’s about. Making good choices, and that’s what we try to teach them.”

Looking around a WCMS gymnasium filled with volunteers from local law enforcement agencies, other first-responders and emergency services workers, Coots described “Truth & Consequences” as one big community partnership event to bring awareness about the ramifications of using drugs and alcohol.

“We just really want the students to understand a little more about what really does happen,” said Coots. “Because ... a lot of these community partners in here ... are really the people that you don’t want to see.

“So it’s really just meant to be a real conversation with the students about what happens” when they make a poor choice to use drugs and alcohol.

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