Clarksville students DARE to Care Program targets drugs, liquor, hate

May 30, 1993|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

On an aerial platform attached to a 95-foot ladder and a 33-ton fire truck, Clarksville Middle School student Chris Jenkins got the thrill of his life.

"My teeth were chattering, my knees were shaking," said the eighth-grader, who went up, up, up to survey the land and rolling hills near his school in Clarksville on Friday. "It's windy up there. It was scary."

Nearby, students got a chance to try out a police cruiser's knickknacks and doodads, including a public address system that boomed their voices throughout the school parking lot.

The students were participating in two of the activities that took place at DARE to Care, part of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program in which eighth-graders attended workshops about race relations, the juvenile justice system and drinking and driving.

The school's health education department and the county police department sponsored the all-day program.

"Kids really didn't know the other side of the police," said Officer Rick Maltz, coordinator of DARE for the middle schools.

"We didn't want them to be arrested to show them all this," he said, waving his arm to a police wagon. "For those who are thinking of something, it could be a deterrent."

Mamie Perkins, the school's health education coordinator, would like the idea to spread among all middle schools. "It's a great opportunity to see police officers in a different level," she said. "It takes the mystique out of police officers."

Sgt. Rodney Stem of the county Sheriff's Office and Officer Bruce Lohr of the county Police Department spoke to students about race relations, stressing the importance of tolerance. They also warned students about hate groups, which they say are growing locally and nationally.

"If you think the Ku Klux Klan are just a bunch of knuckleheads who go out and march, believe me, it goes much further than that," said Officer Lohr, who added that 31 people across the United States were murdered last year by such groups.

"They are so bent that their way is the right way," Sergeant Stem said. "Because they're so violent, avoid them. Their hatred is like a cancer. It spreads, and it's just a negative thing."

Fourteen-year-old Eric Waddy left the presentation with a lasting impression. "There's too much hatred in the world," he said. "It should be stopped. I think the police should stop the KKK and not even let them march."

In a session next door, members of the county chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving told students what happened to their lives after loved ones were hit by drunken drivers.

Bob Stoesser recalled the dread and fear he felt when he received aphone call at 4 a.m., and "the voice on the other end said [his daughter] had been involved in a very bad accident, and oh yeah, can you bring a recent photo of her."

His daughter, Charie, had been hit head-on by a drunken driver, who turned out to be a friend of hers. Both her legs and arms were broken, and "every bone in her face had been crushed," he said. "Her eye socket no longer existed. The roof of her mouth had been snapped in half.

"We waited many hours, doing some praying, waiting to see what would happen," he said. "Many hours later, we were allowed to see our daughter for the second time."

The driver who hit her had a blood alcohol level of 0.18. Maryland considers a person with a level of 0.1 as legally intoxicated. He went to jail for six months and had to pay a $500 fine.

"They found my daughter awake, bleeding profusely, crying for help and screaming for someone to get her out of the car," Mr. Stoesser said. "She asked for a tissue to wipe her nose because she was having difficulty breathing. Little did she know she did not even have a nose."

His daughter, now 30, survived. She underwent a total of 60 hours of surgery and countless more hours in rehabilitation. She suffered some brain damage but just graduated from Howard Community College. She will marry in September.

Mr. Stoesser warned students that as they grow older, they'll be tempted through peer pressure to drink.

"Drinking and driving, besides being a serious crime, is a stupid thing to do," he said. "You can kill yourself. You can kill your best friend."

Fourteen-year-old Ciana Smith was touched by what happened to Charie. "It was sad because she probably didn't think it could happen to her," she said. "I'm going to pay more attention to drivers and not drink and drive."

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