AMHERST – An assortment of public and private agencies gathered in Spring Street Elementary’s gymnasium Thursday to promote a message.
“Healthy life choices, I would say,” said Const. Derek Hebert, Amherst Police Department.
Race Against Drugs is an annual event attracting students from schools across the region. Four schools attended this year – a total of 139 Grade 5 students. Twelve presenters offered kids information on everything from drug sniffing dogs to paramedic care, bomb defusing to railroad safety. Participating policing organizations included the RCMP, Amherst and Springhill police, CN (Canadian National) police and Corrections Canada, and some of the non-profit or public agencies included Maggie’s Place and EHS, the YMCA and Wolfpack Football. The Lions promoted the event, and volunteers from the club, as well as high school students with SADD, helped run the event.
“They’re at the age where they’re impressionable,” said RCMP Const. Dal Hutchinson. Grade 5s are off to junior high in just a couple of years, and they’re exposed to so many different things because of technology, according to Hutchinson.
“It’s very important to the kids,” said Lion Andy Martin.
He stressed the importance of children learning not to get into a car with someone who’s been drinking. His fellow Lion, Sonny Foster, said they’ve been involved with the race event for six years, but have been working on youth drug awareness for at least 40 years.
The students were broken into groups of 10 or so and cycled through each presentation. A bell tolled to tell them when it was time to move. Boomer, a two-year old Lab, found a cloth that had been exposed to the scent of drugs. The bomb disposal unit put a suit and helmet on a child. Vikings hockey gave kids a chance to take shots on a floor hockey net.
Ami Walsh, a teacher at Springhill’s West End Memorial school, said the event was the right fit for the age group.
“The topics are relevant,” she said.
Walsh said kids are aware of events like the vote in two states to legalize recreational marijuana use, or drug experimentation by the U.S. president. Students need to be aware of what’s out there, and that “the dangers still exist.”
Const. Hebert works with school kids regularly.
“The message has to get to them early,” he said.
Part of what Hebert hopes kids develop is the ability to resist peer pressure.
Daniel Estabrooks was at the Vikings hockey presentation. Zumba in the library was what the West Highlands student was really looking forward to. Estabrooks was positive about the Race Against Drugs.
“It’s good because it’s teaching kids to stay off drugs because drugs are bad for you.”