Teaching fifth-graders about the consequences of drug use can help kids avoid the pitfalls of drug abuse and peer pressure as they grow older.
But there’s another group of people who need to be educated as well.
Moms and dads.
“Some of the most difficult decisions your children will make is when you’re not present. It’s important to teach them to be good thinkers so when they have to make decisions, they can make the correct decisions,” said Oro Valley dad Antonio Benjamin.
Benjamin, a captain with the Golder Ranch Fire District, far too frequently experiences the tragedies drugs can cause.
“As a paramedic, I’ve seen the awful consequences of drug abuse, like the kid who overdosed on Christmas Eve. He was high school age and I had to tell his parents their child wasn’t coming back,” said the father of three who attended last year’s event with his daughter.
Benjamin’s wife is Oro Valley Police Officer Shawn Benjamin, co-creator of the Dispose-A-Med program and the 2011 Oro Valley Rotary Club’s Citizen of the Year for her commitment to helping area youths.
Being so close to the problem gives the Benjamins certain insights into drug usage and abusage in Oro Valley and the surrounding areas.
“I don’t think parents grasp this epidemic. They can’t believe it could affect their kids,” Antonio Benjamin noted. “It’s important to stress that nobody’s immune from it. Oro Valley is a beautiful town but drugs are here. It’s definitely scary.”
Oro Valley mom Kay Snell learned a lot by attending last year’s Drug Awareness Day with her son.
“I found it very informative, such as learning about the GPS tracker for kids’ cell phones,” she said. “I was surprised drugs are so prevalent in Oro Valley, but not so surprised having come here from Colorado, where there is so much going on all the time.
“Kids can get their hands on prescription medications, so I always keep an account of what’s in the house,” Snell said.
The active mom also monitors her son’s Facebook page.
“I look at his account every day to make sure he follows the rules. As long as he’s willing to let me monitor Facebook, I’m willing to let him have the account,” said Snell.
Oro Valley Police Officer Wendy Davis, the event’s coordinator, recommends that parents with limited time attend the Drug Awareness Day event between 9 and 10 a.m., when guest speaker Ashley Franks will discuss how she lost her brother to a drug overdose.
Learning drug awareness in fifth grade will help youths survive the pitfalls that present themselves in middle school, “where it all starts,” said Davis.
By taking a proactive approach to drug awareness, parents can reduce the chances that their children will become involved in drugs, said Benjamin.
“Parents need to start believing that it’s not if, but when, their child will be exposed to or offered drugs,” he noted.
If you go
What: Drug Awareness Day, for fifth-graders and their parents
When: 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m., April 6
Where: Cañada del Oro Riverfront Park, 551 W. Lambert Lane
Presented by: Oro Valley Police Dept. and Oro Valley Optimist Club
For more information, contact Oro Valley Police Officer Wendy Davis at 696-3853.