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Students pledge to make healthy choices

October 01, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - For Chambersburg Area Middle School students Rochelle Howell and Sarah Provard, the incentives of the TRUCE program have little to do with their willingness to sign up.

"I don't like drugs," said Provard.

"I believe in not taking drugs and leading a very healthy life," said Howell. The idea that she will be eligible for discounts from more than 100 area restaurants, retailers and other merchants "is not even important to me."

Those incentives, however, do serve as positive reinforcement for students' good behavior, according to Pat Massa, a former guidance counselor and coordinator for Teens Resisting Unhealthy Choices Everyday.

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Howell and Provard were among the more than 600 seventh-graders who crowded into the gymnasium of the middle school Tuesday to hear the pitch to join TRUCE, which emphasized the importance of being drug-free over the inducements of the program.

Magician Russ Smith illustrated through illusions the benefits and pitfalls of making the right or wrong decisions in life, and Chambersburg Police Officer Brad Kyner told of destructive effects of drugs he witnesses each day in his profession.

Since the program began in 2000, more than 1,000 middle, junior high and high school students in the Chambersburg Area School District have signed up, Massa said.

The program was developed by the Greater Chambersburg Chamber Foundation in cooperation with the district, parents, businesses and community organizations, she said.

Each student wishing to receive a TRUCE photo identification card must get their parents' permission to participate. It is not just a pledge program, however, as students must submit to urinalysis for opiates, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines and PCP to be accepted into TRUCE, as well as possible random drug tests while in the program.

Samples are taken by volunteers from Chambersburg Hospital, according to Terri Thomas, a laboratory employee. Students will have identification numbers, but the hospital will not be able to link a number with an individual student, she said.

While police and faculty are not notified of results, a positive test for drugs is forwarded to Cumberland Valley Mental Health Center. The center can link the identification numbers to students and will contact parents in the event of a positive test for an evaluation and possible counseling, according to Massa.

Only about five students declined random testing last year, Massa said.

Students at Faust Junior High School will be offered the opportunity to join the TRUCE program today and sixth-graders at the middle school will have a TRUCE assembly Monday, Massa said. A program at the high school will be scheduled for later this fall, she said.

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