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TRUCE message trickles down to middle school sixth-graders

January 23, 2003|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Magician R.G. Smith inserted a lengthy pin straight through a blown-up white balloon, careful not to pop it.

He likened the feat to someone's first-time experiment with illegal drugs.

"The first time around you may be lucky and nothing happens," Smith told a gymnasium full of sixth-graders at Chambersburg Area Middle School Wednesday afternoon.

But as he inserted the pin next into a green balloon, it popped, followed by yellow and then red balloons.

That, Smith said, is similar to what happens with subsequent drug experiences.

"You realize it wasn't really worth it at all," he said.

Faced with the problem of students experimenting with illegal drugs at younger ages, a program aimed at keeping children drug-free is now targeting lower grades.

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Discounts on cars, pizza and clothing were first offered three years ago to students at Chambersburg Area Senior High School who agreed to voluntary drug testing.

TRUCE (Teens Resisting Unhealthy Choices Everyday) worked its way down to J. Frank Faust Junior High School and last year included seventh-graders at Chambersburg Area Middle School.

"This encourages healthy living so we don't lose a good mind to drugs or anything else," said Pat Massa, TRUCE coordinator.

About 500 sixth-graders heard about TRUCE for the first time Wednesday during an assembly.

The program urges students to stay drug free by offering them a card that entitles them to 10 to 20 percent discounts and free items at more than 90 area merchants.

TRUCE is sponsored by the Greater Chambersburg Chamber Foundation and modeled after a program in Little Rock, Ark.

The incentives from area businesses are what make TRUCE work, Massa said.

"We were encouraged to take this to the sixth grade, unfortunately, because there is a need to discourage drugs that early," she said.

Massa said she expected about a third of the sixth-graders would sign up.

Smith, a member of the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce, performed several magic tricks during the afternoon assembly while talking about the pressure children face to make choices.

"You have to learn to make the right choices and trust the right people," Smith said.

Participating students will get a tamper-proof photo ID card good until they graduate, refuse to take a test, or test positive for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines or opiates.

Students need parental permission to sign up for the TRUCE program.

Participants are selected randomly by computer for drug testing throughout the year.

The drug testing is completely confidential and results will not be turned over to school officials or police.

There are 953 students in grades seven through 12 who are participating in the program.

Massa said more than 100 companies support TRUCE with discounts or in other ways.

In addition to the discounts, the students in the program can participate in pool parties and roller skating nights.

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