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Poster winners send a message: 'Be drug free'

From the left are guest speaker John Engebreth, Hudson Middle School seventh-grader Cheyanne Massie, school guidance counselor Max Hansen and District Attorney Eric Johnson. Massie, who started participating in the poster contest when she was in fourth grade, won the grand prize this year. Her poster is the cover of the calendar.

St. Croix County District Attorney Eric Johnson hosted the awards ceremony of his 18th annual Stop Drug and Alcohol Abuse Poster Contest at the Hudson High School Auditorium Monday evening.

The contest was open to all students in grades 4-7 in St. Croix County.

"This year we received over 1,400 posters from kids throughout the county," said Johnson. "Fifteen people from the community gave their time and energy to judge the posters. It's a huge task and made that much more difficult because of the great talent all of these kids showed in their work."

Savings bonds totaling $2,500 were awarded to the top 41 winners in the contest, along with a copy of a Hazelden book containing advice for teens on alcohol, drugs, eating disorders and risky behavior.

Ten students in each grade received a savings bond, and the posters of the top three vote-getters were displayed on the calendar. The grand prize-winning poster appears on the cover of the calendar.

St. Croix County Sheriff Dennis Hillstead and school guidance counselor Max Hansen reminded the audience of the current trends in drug use in St. Croix County and in the schools. They also joined Johnson in reminding parents and students the value of education and communication.

Johnson told the audience that Wisconsin leads the nation in alcohol consumption and discussed all of the problems associated with it.

Guest speaker John Engebreth, a 1998 Hudson High school graduate who is currently a Hazelden clinical staff member, shared his insight with the audience.

"The choice I made changed my life," said Engebreth, of his decision to try drugs and alcohol when he was a teenager to be cool and be with the in-crowd. "I thought using drugs and alcohol would get me there quicker."

"When I was 16, I went to my school counselor and told him I was using and wanted to stop," said Engebreth, who changed the direction of his life.

"The one main thing that I want you to take home is that not everyone is using," said Engebreth, who added how important communication is with family, teachers and guidance counselors.

"Also pay attention to whom you are spending time with," said Engebreth. "Stay busy and think about what you want to do and achieve in your life."

In conclusion, Engebreth said, "It is important to know that treatment works. It works, it is effective and it helps transforms lives."

To obtain a copy of the 2009 Stop Drugs Calendar, contact the district attorney's office at (715) 386-4658.