Margaret’s Musings: Poster contest is both a grim reminder and a joyous momentAlcohol and drug abuse is something that touches most of us at one time or another, whether it is close-up and personal or at a distance. So for me it is always enlightening to attend the annual St. Croix County District Attorney’s Stop Drug and Alcohol Abuse Poster Contest Calendar Awards night.
By: Margaret Ontl, Hudson Star-Observer
Alcohol and drug abuse is something that touches most of us at one time or another, whether it is close-up and personal or at a distance. So for me it is always enlightening to attend the annual St. Croix County District Attorney’s Stop Drug and Alcohol Abuse Poster Contest Calendar Awards night.
The contest, now in its 22nd year, is presently offered to fourth-, fifth-, sixth- and seventh-grade students throughout St. Croix County. Participation is voluntary and determined in part by whether or not the teachers support the project or have time to incorporate it into their curriculum. Hudson teachers have been particularly supportive of the effort since the beginning.
The federal government announced last year the war on drugs was lost, however, the battle continues throughout our country at all levels. Locally, the effort to win by education is still going strong as is evidenced by the fact that year after year an average of 1,300 students participate in the poster contest.
Admittedly there is a reward. If you are selected as one of the top ten vote getters in each grade you receive a certificate for a United States savings bond.
However, looking at the artwork you can see how the students’ awareness has changed over the years, to include each new drug threat from huffing and methamphetamines to bottles of booze and the syringes.
Aside from the artwork the written messages show a depth of understanding well beyond their creator’s calendar age. From warnings about the side effects including depression, anxiety, nausea, heart failure and uncontrolled behavior to positive messages such as Friendship is Forever, Drugs Sink Ships and Keep yourself Clean and Live the Dream. Some have sports themes, others are based on rhymes, fairy tales and familiar children’s stories. They all share the same message: Drugs and alcohol can prevent you from reaching your human potential.
I usually leave the event feeling somewhat buoyant about the future. This year however, I entered the event with a particular sadness having recently read headlines regarding heroin-caused deaths not only in the Hudson Star-Observer but in my home area daily newspaper, the Janesville Gazette. It seems the state is in the midst of a significant uptick in heroin distribution and use.
Usually every year around the time of the poster contest, I think about a fellow journalist, who over two decades ago, penned a column regarding drug use in America. He had just returned from attending an Spanish emersion program in Guatemala.
It was powerful, challenging everyone, white collar folks in particular, to look in the mirror and acknowledge that their drug use was killing innocent people in far off lands who through no fault of their own were caught in the midst of gunfire by the drug cartels protecting their products. Remember this column was written long before Mexico exploded into murder and mayhem.
Remember the common phrase, “What difference does it make if I use drugs, it doesn’t hurt anyone else.”
That column all those years ago pointed out that it did make a difference and today, the drugs are more powerful, more detrimental, more addictive and more destructive.
Aside from the personal cost of doing drugs, I find the United States, is in a particularly precarious position. As the world’s leading consumer of illicit drugs, our nation is supporting a world-wide industry dedicated destruction.
A recent global survey confirms that illicit drug use in developed countries like the United States has reached epidemic proportions. Commenting on the study was Dr. Jeffrey T. Parsons, a professor in the department of psychology at Hunter College in New York City, who said “Unfortunately, the U.S. has made little progress in the prevention and treatment of drug abuse in the past decade.
A check on the National Institutes of Health, National Drug Abuse website, confirmed the fact that we are paying dearly for what many folks claim is the right to do drugs, because it doesn’t hurt anyone else.
The data on the site appears to be more than a decade old. It states annual substance abuse, which includes tobacco, cost the United States $485 billion dollars in 2000.
A lot has changed in the decade since including our war in Afghanistan, where we have not only been sending our troops to find Osama Bin Laden but to free the country from the rule of the Taliban. As you may know opium poppy is their most prevalent crop and the profits from its production and distribution directly fund the Taliban.
There is a particular irony to the fact that we appear to on a track to negotiate a peaceful withdrawal with the Taliban.
Hudson seems a long way from Afghanistan, but maybe we are not as disconnected as you think.
In the meantime, here is a list of randomly chosen Hudson students, some of them are now adults, who won acknowledgments for their participation in the St. Croix County District Attorney’s poster contest; Shannon Luty, Michael Mechelke, Sara Mechelke, Jonathon Zeller, Michelle Sodergren, Christopher Reisdorf, Will Ashwood, Laura Bardill, Kyle Johnson, Chris Larson, Jenny Ernie, Jon Orella, Rachel Hagen, Gretchen Hoehn, Ryan Pedestuen, Paul Wiemerslage and Savannah Vickerman. I would be curious to see how education regarding drug and alcohol abuse helped them as they made their way through the challenges of youth.
The contest was initiated by St. Croix County District Attorney Eric Johnson. It receives widespread support from the business community throughout St. Croix County. The artwork that results gives one hope for the future.