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Students at Catalina High learn to prevent substance abuse through Red Ribbon Week

On Friday, October 30, 2015, students gathered in Catalina High's auditorium during first and second period to listen to a guest panel about the consequences of substance abuse. It was the culmination in a week-long event honoring Red Ribbon Awareness for drug and substance abuse prevention.

"I wanted them to hear the process of what they would have to go through, and what professionals they would have to interface with because of their choices," explained Marie Welding, one of the school's guidance counselors and the organizer of the event.

The panel was made up of police officers, members of the county attorney's and probation office, M.A.D.D., as well as a substance abuse counseling agency. The goal was to educate students on the social, monetary and legal effects of substance abuse, in addition to the physical effects.

The panel greatly impacted sonny Pugh-Holmes, a Catalina sophomore. "Drug abuse can lead to the worst places," he said. "You can go through the jail system; you can go through the court system. Either way, it's always messing up your life."

Officer Mark Evanoff, Catalina's School Resource Officer, was pleased to interact with the students through the panel. "The kids see us in a different light," he remarked, "In a setting like this, they're more receptive to it."

Ms. Welding had activities for the students all week long in honor of substance abuse awareness, such as a raffle for students who wore red ribbons all five days and trivia questions each day of the week. "I think [Red Ribbon Week] is one of the most important events of the year," she said.

The thunderous applause at the end of the panel signified the deep impact the speakers made on their audience.

"We want them to know that this is so serious. It can affect their family, their finances. Not only their health and safety, but all those other aspects of their life," said Ms. Welding. "We hope we've impacted some change today."