It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt, that was a message conveyed through theatrics as well as discussion on Tuesday, May 8 during the Drugstore Project. Over 800 fifth and sixth grade students spent the greater part of the day rotating through varying scenes, as well as education stations. The event is hosted at Fair Oaks Elementary School.
With the partnership of Oakdale Fire Department, Oakdale Police Department, Oak Valley Hospital, Oakdale Memorial Chapel and local businesses, Oakdale Joint Unified School District is able to present the project to students every even year.
Drugstore Project Coordinator Carrie Bairos shared that it is only through the support of such agencies, as well as community and student volunteers that a project of this size can be possible.
“We’ve had a great program,” she said, noting this was her first time as Project Coordinator, as well as being a part of the Drugstore Project.
Bairos has nine years of paramedic experience and during that time was an active participant with the high school’s odd year, Every 15 Minutes program.
“I think it’s important for kids at this age because kids this age are exposed to way more than we were at this age,” Bairos said of presenting the program to elementary aged students.
During their time on campus the students are broken up into 12 groups, rotating through over a dozen stations educating, as well as placing them in “life like” experiences with fellow classmates in the role of a student making the wrong choice.
“We may never know why. We may never know why people make the choices that they do,” Pastor Henry Raven said to Sierra View classmates of Christian Alvarez, during his ‘memorial’ service. “I want you to understand that one of the most important gifts that any parent can give their child is the gift of freedom. Yet we cannot always keep you safe.”
A memorial service, as well as a party scene, emergency room, juvenile hall and courtroom are set up and staffed with professionals and student actors (in the party scene) to place the student in a “life like” circumstance with a prior chosen classmate playing out the scene.
“It’s really hard sitting in the courtroom with a real judge,” Christian’s mother, Alejandra Arizemendi said. “I never want to go through this in real life. At the hospital I felt like I couldn’t do much to help my kid to make the right choices.”
Arizemendi shared that the family was given ample information about the project and her son’s role prior to Tuesday’s enactment, yet it didn’t make much difference.
“You know it’s fake,” she shared, wiping tears as she spoke, “but as a parent it’s going through your head, my kid could literally be going through this.”
Christian’s mom shared she hoped that the experience helped the students and opened their eyes to what waits on the other side of poor choices. She noted the experience as personally eye opening.
“We need to spend more time with our kids,” she said of her biggest lesson from the day. “Quality time. To help them not make the wrong choices in life.”
Bairos echoed the sentiments of both Raven, as well as Arizemendi, stating, “It’s out there in their faces (substances) and we need to be able to try and prevent some of the bad choices that students can make at an earlier age.”
Bairos also shared that a number of the high school drama students participating in the Party Scene, were past participants of the Drugstore Project. A fact, she added, which served as motivator for their participation in this year’s event.