By Steven Smeall
CORNWALL, Ontario – Students from around the area gathered at the Cornwall Armoury Thursday for the 13th annual Race Against Drugs, an event aimed at raising drug awareness amongst Grade 6 students.
“The program has been in the area for almost 16 years and the goal of our program is to educate Grade 6 students on what a drug is, the consequences surrounding them, how to say no to them, and how you can make healthier choices,” said Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) constable Jean Juneau, who has also been chair organizer of the event since 1997.
Students made their way around the 11 “pit stops” that were set up, each with their own message about the effects that drugs and alcohol can have on their lives. The organizers also showed students what else could be dangerous to their health.
“They have to understand the impact of using energy drinks,” said Juneau. “They’re not meant for youth and could be very harmful for them.”
Organizers wanted to make sure that students had a lot to learn at the various presentations.
“We work on this all year,” said local paramedic Randy Lalonde, who has been to the past 12 Racing Against Drugs. “Most of the partners you see meet once a month to organize this event for the year.”
Of the “pit stops”, the most popular with students seemed to be a race course where they had the opportunity to race miniature electric cars. The purpose was to make it around the track without causing any accidents.
Other presentations involved students being given goggles which simulated impairment. They were then given keys and told to try unlocking a vehicle. A presentation by the Emergency Medical Services showed the children the harms that come from drugs.
“We’re showing the immediate consequences of street drugs,” said Lalonde. “There is no control of street drugs. We don’t know what we’re dealing with and they could have permanent effects.”
Various organizations partnered up for the event to give the students a wide perspective of the troubles surrounding drugs and alcohol as well as how to live a healthier life style. These groups included the RCMP, the Cornwall Police, and Club Optimiste.
“Marketing is very strong out there for drugs,” said Juneau. “They’re not trying to get us adults, they’re trying to get the younger groups.”
The event, which is offered to over 800 students throughout the area, ran from April 7 – 11.