Middle-school students band together at countywide summit to fight drugs

October 23, 1994|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,Sun Staff Writer

Floyd, a German short-haired pointer, knows all about drugs. But that's his job.

The friendly dog sniffs out big bundles and even minute amounts of illegal narcotics during his hours working with the state police.

He also has another job. He gives demonstrations of his tracking skills with his trainer, Tfc. Ed Karr.

The duo delighted middle-school students who were attending a youth drug summit last week at Camp Ramblewood in Darlington.

"He loves people and loves food," Trooper Karr said. "He gets better treats than me and a chauffeur eight hours a day."

The dog, almost 4 years old, earns his keep. The trooper told the students that Floyd, a bird dog by trade, went through extensive training to learn to use his keen sense of smell to find drugs.

At the summit, Floyd went through his paces, easily hunting drug paraphernalia that Trooper Karr had hidden in a closet. The dog's reward was his favorite blue ball, which he chewed and bounced across the stage.

Frank Carroll, a sixth-grader at Aberdeen Middle School, said the canine demonstration was his favorite part of the four-hour summit Wednesday. "I like dogs," he said, petting Floyd.

He also enjoyed making anti-drug posters to take back to school, he said.

The 90 students from the county's eight middle schools and St. Margaret parochial school spent the morning attending a variety of workshops and listening to keynote speaker Linda Salzman, youth adviser for the Governor's Drug and Alcohol Youth Commission.

Mrs. Salzman talked to the children about the value of being involved. "The more you risk, the more you get out of an activity," she told them.

This is the first year the middle-school students had their own drug summit. For the past five years, they had joined the high schools in an annual program.

"There is a big age difference; it's a matter of where they are with prevention," said J. Sue Henry, coordinator of the county Drug/Alcohol Impact Program, explaining the decision to divide the groups. The high school conference was Oct. 12.

The drug programs are sponsored by the county's Joint Narcotics Task Force and the county Board of Education. Harford Community College also was a sponsor of the high school program.

At the middle school summit, the children were split into groups of 10 to attend two of nine workshops, which ranged from wellness to understanding peer pressure to drug information.

Ethan Estevez, 11, of Bel Air Middle School attended a drug workshop presented by the task force. "I learned not to use drugs because they could kill you," Ethan said. "I didn't know cough syrup could kill you. The guy chewed off his lips."

Ethan was referring to a personal story shared by Detective Sgt. Augie Stern of the task force. Sergeant Stern told the children about a young friend who drank so much cough medicine to get high that he suffered brain damage and tried to injure himself.

Sergeant Stern also explained the economic principles of drug dealing in terms of supply and demand. "You are tomorrow's adults," he said. "If everybody says no, it will put the drug traffickers out of business. It will take all of us working together."

The children at the drug summit were chosen by their schools for a variety of reasons. Some belong to "Just Say No" clubs at their schools; some are in student government. And some excel in school. Ms. Henry told the students, "You should see this as the beginning of your involvement in prevention."

The children also received certificates. Three schools were honored with plaques and a monetary award for their drug prevention efforts.

Havre de Grace Middle received $200 for first place. Fallston and Bel Air middle schools each received $100, sharing second place.

The students then tied balloons to their wrists and held hands as a symbol that they would work together. "You have to take the message elsewhere," Ms. Henry stressed.

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