Get High on Life

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 2, 1998

By Harold Keller / L’Observateur / November 2, 1998

This week, schools in Louisiana celebrated “Red Ribbon Week.” The lastweek in October is usually set aside for “Red Ribbon Week” which was declared a few years ago to call attention to the serious drug problem in this state. I had the honor and privilege of speaking at a few area schools.The first school I had the opportunity to speak at was West St. JohnElementary School. There were about 200 fourth, fifth and sixth graders inattendance. The principal and staff had to be pleased with the behavior oftheir students because they were great! One fifth-grader wrote me a letter and said, “I enjoyed your talk. You werevery funny. For an old man, you were pretty good.” I had to laugh and wasreminded that the reason I like dealing with young people is because they are honest and to the point. I wish more adults were like them.My next visit was to Lutcher Elementary School. I had two groups -Kindergarten through third grade and fourth through sixth grade. Mr.Mitchell, the principal, was out on sick leave. I go to this school four orfive times a year. The kids are great and are only looking to be loved.I then went directly to the St. John Re-Direction Center in Garyville. Ididn’t know much about this school. Mr. DiCarlo is the principal and when Iarrived, he told me there were about 30 students. The students are therebecause they could not function in a normal school setting and range in age from 7 to 18. I was impressed by what was going on at the school. Withouta doubt, young people were being re-directed to a better life.

Mr. DiCarlo shared with me that many parents who have troubled childrenrefuse to send them there because of the stigma of the school. To theseparents, I say: Yes, it is their problems. Refusing the help that’s availableat the Re-Direction Center will only make your problem child worse. Letme encourage you to give your child a chance. Look into the Re-DirectionCenter.

My last school for the week was LaPlace Elementary. I spoke to threedifferent groups – fourth, fifth and sixth graders. I was asked by Mrs. JaneBozeman to speak and this was the first time I had done so at this school.

When you enter the school, you can feel the spirit. Mrs. Courtney Millet,the principal, greeted me with the words: “We have some very good, caring teachers and great kids!” When I left the school, I was encouraged. The kids were great, and theteachers were excited about their jobs and loved every child.

To the parents who have children at LaPlace Elementary: You are blessed! One insurance company has a saying: You’re in good hands with us. I assureyou that the children at LaPlace Elementary are in good hands.

As the week came to an end, I was reminded that drugs and alcohol are really not the problem. It’s the symptom of other problems – the problemsbeing that we too often neglect the needs of our children. They need to beloved and disciplined. We cannot depend on the school to do everything. We,as parents and community leaders, need to step up and take our turn at the plate. I guarantee that it will be a hit with the kids.

Harold Keller is a regular columnist for L’Observateur.

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