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Denair Middle School students witness life of drug addict
Drug program pic1
Emergency medical staff acts out the process of saving sixth-grader Abby Helnore after a drug overdose, as her dad holds her hand asking her to stay with him.

As doctors try to resuscitate sixth-grader Abby Helnore from a drug overdose, her dad Don Helnore holds her hand, begging her to stay with him. The doctor’s call a time of death and Don tells them to try harder. With a somber face he says “that’s my baby.”

This is just one of the scenes that Denair Middle School students got to see on Thursday through the Drug Store Project, which was brought to Denair for the first time this year.

Students from sixth grade up to eighth grade were taken through different scenarios to form a story line about how drug abuse begins and how it ends.

“It gives them more of an idea of what can happen if they get into drugs,” said Elise Domico, Denair Middle School guidance counselor and coordinator for the Drug Store Project at Denair.

Students were taken through scenes starting from a pharmacy, Juvenile Hall, the courtroom, probation/counseling, a party, the Emergency Room, a funeral home and finally ending with a debriefing session. Students also took part in seven static displays of a Meth Lab truck, drug dogs, SWAT truck, an ambulance, fire truck, probation and a gang awareness talk.

Some students were pre-selected to participate in the scenes to make them feel real for their peers. Additionally, the program uses along the help of over 150 volunteers and local organizations.

In the pharmacy scene, a student stole some meth and had marijuana in her pocket. The student is arrested in front of her friends and then taken to a scene representative of Juvenile Hall.

The students follow their classmate throughout the story line as she attends a party, where she takes too many drugs, resulting in an overdose, and is taken to the emergency room where she was pronounced dead.

“The emergency room scene is the most effective because students see what happens when someone passes,” said Aaron Delworth, Denair Middle School principal.

The funeral scene is the one of the last scenes where students can see the most serious life-altering consequences of taking drugs.

During each scene, students are also talked to about how drugs can affect their lives. In the Juvenile Hall scene, a Stanislaus County Probation officer acting as an inmate asked students to raise their hands if they knew someone who does drugs. Half of the sixth grade class raised their hands.

“They are being exposed to more at a younger age,” Delworth said. “Before it becomes a problem, we want to start educating students.”

And the project seemed to hit home with the students as tears were shed during some of the scenes.

“Some are still in shock,” he said.

Even the parents took an emotional hit seeing their children being arrested or in the emergency room scenes.

“It’s been a little emotional,” said Don Helnore. “I know it’s not real but seeing Abby (his daughter) in harm’s way is hard.”

But despite the emotional hardships of Thursday’s project, acting out the reality of what can happen when people take drugs was well worth it, he said.

“This is great and we need more of this,” said Don Helnore. “I have seen kids at the high school level with drug problems. We need to catch them at this age.”

To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015