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Area students to get a taste of Reality

June 28, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART

Three of Washington County's Circuit Court judges got their first introduction Friday to a Reality program designed to change the course of teens at high risk for drug and alcohol addiction.

"It sounds like a really good program - another alternative in sentencing," said Kennedy Boone, who attended a luncheon at the Hagerstown Elks Club with fellow judges John H. McDowell and Don Beachley.

The first session for Washington County will begin Aug. 6. It will be four nights of intensive education and a close look at the experiences with the consequences associated with addictions.

Organizers are hoping for a class of about 14.

The students will be bombarded with facts about the dangers of alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and heroin. And there will be a quiz.

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"Following the classroom presentation, there will be a tour of Washington County Hospital," said Maryland State Police Trooper First Class Terry Ober, statewide Reality coordinator.

Ober said teens will get to see what happens to people who are in accidents when they are using drugs or alcohol irresponsibly.

Another session will be set in the Washington County courts where legal penalties will be laid out for the teens.

Touring the Washington County Detention Center is also part of the program, Ober said.

"And there is 17 1/2 hours of homework," Ober said.

Part of that homework is setting up a detailed 30-day care plan based on being paralyzed in an alcohol-induced accident.

The teens will be sent out to make their own funeral plans and to write letters to their parents, sweetheart and best friend - as if they were saying goodbye before dying in an accident.

"Those letters will be sealed. No one in the class will see the contents," Ober said. But the letters will be kept and will be sent to those people if the teen is ever killed in an accident that is his or her fault.

Locally, the teachers of the Reality program will be Debbie Hamby of the Maryland State Police, and Forrest Sprecher and Jim Holsinger of the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

"In Carroll County, we have parents bringing their kids in by the collar to get them into this program, court-ordered or not," Ober said.

Funded by donations from organizations and businesses such as the Elks, the Lady Elks, Phoenix Color, D.M. Bowman Trucking and Dynamark, there is no cost to the taxpayers.

Each person who attends the class must pay a $130 fee - a factor that worries one of the judges.

"I'm concerned about the costs. What if a teen can't pay?" McDowell said.

So far, the money for training and purchase of supplies has been obtained, presented Friday in the form of an oversized check for $7,500.

Most of the students will be between the ages of 14 and 21, although the program has accepted a few older and some younger, Ober said.

In addition to court intervention, students can also be referred to the program by the Maryland Department of Juvenile Justice, a social worker or an educator.

So far, 13 counties in Maryland are participating in the program, Ober said.

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