South Lake Tahoe Drug Store Project for Sixth Graders in 14th Year

by Placerville Newswire / Apr 29, 2017 / comments

[Sgt. Brianne Roudebush, California Counterdrug Task Force.]

Photo By Sgt. Brianne Roudebush | Doctors from Barton Memorial Hospital Emergency Department answers students’ questions during the Tahoe Drug Store Project, held at the Lake Tahoe Community College April 4. The Tahoe Drug Store Project, an annual event supported by the California National Guard Counterdrug Task Force, is held for sixth graders in the South Lake Tahoe area that aims to show students the risks and consequences of choosing to use drugs

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – “We have a huge drug problem here in South Lake Tahoe. We struggle here because, frankly, we have a party atmosphere in this community so we have to work against that,” Lisa Huard said. 

Huard, whose own child died as a result of using drugs, is an active advocate for drug prevention and education among the youth in her community. For the past 14 years, she has served as the South Lake Tahoe Drug Store Project coordinator. The Drug Store Project is a one-day event designed to show students the legal, social, physical and emotional consequences of choosing to use drugs. 

On April 4, the 325 sixth-grade students participating in this year’s event went through a series of interactive vignettes. Each scene depicts a different aspect of the aftermath of choosing to use drugs: one of their classmates is arrested, goes to juvenile hall, gets convicted in a courtroom, overdoses at a party, and ultimately dies in the hospital. The final scene is a funeral service where the students listen to a eulogy and file past a casket with a mirror in it that reads: “Don’t let this be you.” 

“We really need our kids thinking more long-term,” Huard said. “The effort here is for kids to understand that no matter what they do – whether they do something really well or they make a poor choice – it affects more than just themselves.”

Held at the South Lake Tahoe Community College and supported by 220 volunteers from 41 state and local agencies, one of the project’s main goals is to get kids thinking about the future. 

“Honestly, to a child or a teenager, the future is basically the weekend,” she said. “But we are in a college for a purpose: I want every kid thinking about going to college and seeing the different jobs [available] and getting an opportunity to meet the faces that serve them.” 

Seven intelligence specialists with the Fleet Intelligence Detachment at Fallon Naval Air Station and five California National Guard Counterdrug Task Force members also participated in the event. 

“Having the military involved is a good way to set the example because kids look up to us,” Sgt. 1st Class James Aleschus, a CDTF member who helped organize the event, said. 

Tech Sgt. May Wilson, also a member of CDTF, echoed those sentiments, adding that, “I think it’s important for us Guardsmen to participate because we are citizens of California and we do support local law enforcement and our state and communities.” 
Wilson, who plans to have her own fifth-grade daughter participate in the event next year, believes the Drug Store Project is highly valuable for the students.

“The real-life scenarios actually get them thinking, ‘this can really happen – it’s not just a skit,’” Wilson said. 

That ‘real-life’ aspect comes from the participation of El Dorado County probation officers, doctors and emergency responders from Barton Memorial Hospital, Suzanne Kingsbury, the presiding judge of the El Dorado County Superior Court, and many others who help bring the vignettes to life.

Huard said the event is geared toward middle school students because “kids this age are still looking for guidance.”

“I look at these kids and it just breaks my heart knowing that some other parent is going to go through what I went through,” Huard said. “I know we are working and we are making a dent, but I’d like a bigger dent. I’d like a really big dent.”

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