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STAR Shoots Down Drugs

Nearly 90 Cedarcreek Elementary School fifth-graders were given their first taste of drug prevention Tuesday through the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Success Through Awareness and Resistance program. The program focuses on providing drug; gang and violence prevention education to students throughout Los Angeles County. Sheriff’s Deputy Casey McMichael began his lesson in Canyon Country on Tuesday by handing out a blank coat of arms to the 27 children in Bernadette LaBelle’s class The Children were told to draw something they love to do, a person they respect, their favorite subject in school and a place they want to visit. Jocelyn Gallaga drew a soccer ball, her dad, art as her favorite subject, and Hawaii. Jonathan Portocarrero drew his dad and Peru as his place to visit. “My dad is Peruvian, my mother is Guatemalan,” Portocarrero said. Blake Crowson drew New York and said, “I want to see the Statue of Liberty.” McMichael oversees 12 schools in the Santa Clarita Valley, where he gives four lessons to fifth-graders and eight lessons to sixth-graders. “The pressure is around (the kids),” McMichael said. “It has a lot to do with influence.” For 14 years, McMichael has stood before elementary school children trying to get them to avoid drugs and make positive choices in their lives. “This is the road less traveled,” McMichael said. “Some deputies go to narcotics. When I found this program it was my specialty.” The Sheriff’s Department collaborates with educators, students, parents and the community to offer the educational program in the classroom to prevent or reduce the use of “gateway” drugs-alcohol, tobacco and marijuana. Based in Whittier, the deputies assigned to the STAR Unit work with 202 schools in 30 school districts teaching more than 46,000 students on a monthly basis. The prevention education promotes the development of social skills through attitude and behavior, McMichael said. “It’s a great reward,” he said. “The majority of the students are drug free.” McMichael will return in a week to the fifth-graders at Cedarcreek and refer to the coat of arms. “The next time I’ll bring it home about the unique person the are and the need to take care of the unique person they are,” McMichael said.
This story can be found in today's Signal Newspaper.