By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Drug Store Project Comes To Cardozo
Two sheriff's deputies were lecturing students on the dangers of drugs, showing them tabletop pictures and even packages of dope. One deputy suddenly held up a baggie of methamphetamines and claimed a youngster had taken it from the table. The other deputy quickly clapped handcuffs on the youngster and led him from the tent.

There was a moment of stunned silence among the children parading past the table. They were not sure if this was real or not. But while they soon guessed this was a simulated situation, the initial shock caught their attention. They were primed to see the possible consequences of illegal drug possession in frightening detail.

The Drug Store Project is a middle school drug prevention program designed to educate youth on the dangers of substance use and abuse. Brought to Cardozo Middle School on Wednesday, May 9 by combined law enforcement and school authorities, this year's program was aimed at fifth to seventh graders who came from Riverbank Language Academy and Mesa Verde and California Avenue Elementary schools besides Cardozo.

Sometimes dubbed drug enforcement's answer to the "Every Fifteen Minutes" program on drunken driving for high schoolers, the program showed more than 630 local students the consequences of illegal drug use and played out for a whole six hours in large tents set up on Cardozo's sports fields behind the school.

The project presents a series of scenes or stations starting with "The Pharmacy" or drug display where a preselected student is "arrested" for taking a bag of dope and a group of about 30 fellow students moves from tent to tent to follow his subsequent fate.

"Juvenile Hall" is the next station. Here students observe a probation officer fingerprinting, photographing and booking their classmate and learn how unpleasant it is to reside in juvenile hall.

In "The Courtroom," a judge explains how the legal system deals with those found guilty of drug possession, places the offender on probation and orders the student to seek rehabilitation through probation and drug counseling.

"The Party" pictures the offender, who has broken his promise to stay clean, taking drugs and alcohol at a party until he collapses from an apparent drug overdose. Police officers and paramedics arrive, perform CPR and take the victim to the next station.

In "The Emergency Room," a doctor and nurses try to revive the victim but without success and he dies. Grieving parents are called to the room where doctors inform them their child has just died.

"The Funeral" that follows is conducted by a minister. Grieving parents are asked to share memories of their deceased child. Students are invited to look inside the coffin. Expecting to see their classmate, they instead look into a mirror and see an image of themselves, a reminder not to let this happen to them or those they love.

Debriefing in a final tent had Riverbank Police Chief Bill Pooley inviting students to share their feelings and recommending against getting involved with drugs in the first place. People, even good people, sometimes make poor choices, he said. It is important for young people to choose their friends wisely, seek support from family or friends if they are tempted and associate with people they can look up to and who are worth emulating.

Behavioral Health and Recovery Services and Riverbank Police Department officials were key players in the program that included numerous law enforcement personnel such as sheriff's deputies, probation officers, juvenile hall and court authorities, paramedics and ambulance crews. Deputy John Septin of the Stanislaus Drug Enforcement Agency was a leading organizer. Stanislaus County Assistant District Attorney Carol Shipley, Judge Nan Cohan Jacobs and Chief Pooley were also there in person to play their parts in the drama.

The program also included booths and displays such as the Atwater Police Gang Awareness Unit, K-9 Unit and police department vehicles, a meth lab clean-up unit, Department of Justice helicopter and Merced County Sheriff's bomb squad.