Over 800 elementary school students and several dozen adult and high school volunteers made a somewhat unique pilgrimage to Fair Oaks Elementary School earlier this month. A number of service agencies were also onsite including Oakdale Police Department, Oakdale Fire Department, Oak Valley Hospital, Oakdale Memorial Chapel and many more in observance of the bi-yearly ‘Drugstore Project.’
The Drugstore Project is hosted each even year for fifth and sixth grade students. This year marked the fifth event in the past 10 years. This is a community based prevention program involving various agencies aimed at educating students through a drug, alcohol and tobacco prevention program.
According to a flyer sent home with the students prior to the event, “Research has found that students in this age group may soon find themselves in the position of having to make choices about the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Encouraging our youth to “Just Say No” is not effective alone.”
Through a variety of stations including a juvenile hall, court room, party scene, emergency room and funeral, students are exposed to the ramifications of poor choices.
“It’s a prevention program and we want it to educate these students,” OJUSD Administrative Assistant-State and Federal Programs, Kim Leverett said.
She has been a key district coordinator of the project, since its inception.
“It’s impactful,” Leverett said.
She shared that the students are given pre and post surveys prior to and following participation in the program. The exit survey holds one additional question regarding the effectiveness of the more than three-hour experience. Ninety-one percent of students state they would rethink their choices because of The Drugstore Project.
In addition to the adult volunteers and onsite service agencies at the varying stations, 24 students (from the participating schools) and their families are chosen as participants. Twelve of the 24 participants are used for the varying scenes making it more relatable and ‘real’ for the students.
“We start planning in October,” Leverett said. “We kind of have it down now. There’s no way this would happen without the participation of the agencies. The participation of the agencies is actually more important than the funding.”
The Drugstore Project is currently not a widely used program in other districts throughout the Central Valley. It is made possible for OJUSD through the agencies, volunteers and donations.
“The ultimate goal is to teach them what could happen if they make a bad choice,” the coordinator said, “and to show them to just say no.
“This year’s group of students seemed super impacted,” she added, noting that each year the students seem to have a bit more of a ‘takeaway’ following the debriefing after the ‘funeral’ of their classmate. “This year just flowed really well and we saw the result of it in the students.”