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Valley Teens Win Essay Contests

Two Central Valley teens won essay competitions for new solutions to the nation’s drug abuse problem.

The competition, Students Taking Action and Responsibility, was created by U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt and open to all junior high and high school students in Eastern Washington’s 5th Congressional District.

Devon Van Dyne, a sophomore at University High School, won the essay competition in the older division with an essay outlining a new mentor program to help steer children away from drugs.

Van Dyne argued that facts and statistics about drugs are too general and therefore not effective. She suggested a new program be developed with specific information from people with personal experience - former drug abusers themselves.

Young drug abusers could be enlisted to explain the dangers of drugs after they have gone through rehabilitation. The program could also offer support sessions attended only by students where young people could talk about any drug-related problems.

Christopher Holmes, a seventh grade student at Bowdish Junior High School, suggested a program in which the majority of time would be spent discussing peer pressure and so-called gateway drugs such as cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana. If students stay away from those drugs, they are unlikely to encounter harder drugs such as heroin and cocaine, Holmes wrote.

The program would be aimed at junior high students, the period when most youths first try drugs. It would offer pictures showing how different drugs affect the body, lectures by former drug addicts and suggestions on how to resist peer pressure.

The two essays were chosen from more than 250 submitted for the competition. Each student wins a trip to Washington, D.C., with a parent or guardian, and a chance to explain the programs to officials in Congress and with the administration.

, DataTimes