• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Learning some of the truths about making poor choices

Woodford County Middle School eighth-graders recently learned about the consequences of making poor choices during “Truth & Consequences: The Choice is Yours,” a program to educate them about the ramifications of using and possessing drugs. “If you’re in a car with someone and the police pull you over and find drugs in the car,” Woodford District Judge Mary Jane Phelps told students gathered around her in the WCMS gym March 6, “everyone goes to jail. So if you suspect that someone’s giving you a substance, bag or something to hold, you have got to be suspicious of it. Just say ‘No.’ Just say, ‘No.’ “Because even though you didn’t know (it was an illegal drug) you could be charged. And this could be forever on your record.” A criminal record can prevent someone from getting into a college and getting a job, she added. Phelps told students even if they’re charged as a juvenile, they will still face consequences such as a being held in a Department of Juvenile Justice detention facility – beyond their 18th birthday. Eighth-grader Conner Brumley was struck by how much jail time a juvenile may face – up to 10 years – if they commit a felony crime like shoplifting more than $500 while under the influence of drugs. “For some, it’s hard to believe that when you don’t know the consequences of what can happen,” said Conner, 13. “But then you have programs like this … that really just help you” make more informed choices. Students also learned why it’s important to always ask for help when they find themselves or someone else in a life or death situation – like seeing someone passed out at a party and being afraid to call 911 because drugs are around, said Kent Berry, a former WCMS football coach and the assistant director of Woodford County Emergency Medical Services. He said it’s important to debunk the myth that they’re going to get in trouble if they make a call to help a friend. “Always call 911, always get help for your friend, family member, whoever it is,” he said of his message to students. “Don’t ever be afraid to call 911 for fear of getting in trouble.” He said if that call for help isn’t made, “it doesn’t end well.” “Truth & Consequences: The Choice is Yours” was organized by the Woodford County Cooperative Extension Service with support from community partners, including the Versailles Police Department, Woodford County EMS, County Attorney Alan George and Judge Phelps, who views the program as an opportunity to explain the real consequences of making poor choices. “Middle school,” said Phelps, “is a critical time to try to make an impression on them that they should do the right thing – not try drugs. “Drugs are the beginning to just major problems for individuals because once they get addicted that leads to a potential of theft and burglary because they will do anything to support their habits.” She lauded “Truth & Consequences” for being focused on the prevention by informing students about what may happen to them if they make a poor choice to start using drugs. “It’s not only eye-opening for the students that are involved in this event … it’s eye-opening for the parents too,” said Elizabeth Coots, UK Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. Ideally, more parents would’ve been able to accompany their children so they could learn from various scenarios together, said Coots. But she understands coming to school on a workday is difficult for many parents. So adult volunteers helped guide students through scenarios designed to educate them about the consequences of making poor choices as a juvenile, she said. “Truth & Consequences: The Choice is Yours” was offered last year too and Coots said, “The feedback we got back from the community agencies (as well as participating teachers, parents and adult volunteers) was very positive.” Because “it’s a University of Kentucky Cooperative Service researched-based curriculum program,” the administration at WCMS was open to setting aside time for eighth-graders to participate in the “Truth & Consequences” program, said Coots. Explaining the “Truth & Consequences” of poor decisions to an eighth-grader is beneficial because they are exposed to a lot at that age, including drugs and alcohol, said Berry. Based on his experience as a middle school football coach, he said “This was the most influential age … when you can try to make a difference.” “They’re going to see it, be around it, maybe even be offered it,” he continued, “so if you can step in and continue what they start in D.A.R.E. (by supporting education) programs like this for middle school … it’s trying to make a difference.

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