Middle-school students learn about choices

NAWILIWILI — When things look bleak and it appears that nothing is going right, what do you do?

The 4th Annual Kaua’i Complex Area Safe and Drug Free Conference was designed to provide positive choices for these types of situations that middle- and high-school students face.

“It’s to show the students that there are choices other than drugs they can turn to,” said Gini Hori, one of the event coordinators.

“I was anti-dance in high school. I was a punk. I was a jock. I hung out with the ‘wrong’ kind of people,” said Jason, the leader of the Sassy magazine Hyper Dance Squad who led one of the breakout sessions.

Slowly, it dawned on Jason that dancing was not that bad. Girls wanted to dance with good dancers. Dancers got to perform on stage when the big shows came to town. When he got his first job as a dance choreographer, Jason said his outlook changed.

Similar stories came from the six other “hand-picked” members of the Hyper Dance Squad.

Dance and music are alternatives to drugs. “I was not a sports girl,” said Brittney, another member of the Hyper Dance Squad. “I wanted something active, and dancing fit. If you don’t have anything else to do, just dance.”

“You have choices,” another member, Henry, told the students. “Those choices might not be dance, but there are others. Work hard, because the adults believe in you.”

That sentiment was echoed by Hori and other conference organizers.

Hori said it was up to each school’s leaders to determine who would attend the conference, held earlier this week at the Kaua’i Marriott Resort & Beach Club.

Those attending included at-risk students, student leaders, as well as students from the general school population.

It was all up to each school’s -leaders to determine which 100 students would attend from each of the participating schools: Waimea Canyon School, Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle, and Kapa’a Middle.

Students in attendance were expected to increase their commitment to being drug free and actively promote initiatives for a safe and drug-free campuses at their respective schools.

Mark Middleton, a radio personality from Florida, made a special trip for the conference, where he addressed “Drug Awareness through Dress and Music.”

Middleton, while waiting on his ride back to Lihu’e Airport following his presentation, said that, when he started out, students were shy and reserved, but through the use of photography and digital equipment in his presentation, the students’ characters blossomed.

Additionally, Hori explained that two winners of an essay contest relating to the conference’s theme were treated to makeovers by the Sassy magazine team members who worked on the students during the conference.

There were ropes courses by leaders of Just Live!, and more.

The first drug-free conference, in 2003, featured students in grades six through 12, and in 2004 the focus was on at-risk students in grades six through 12.

Last year, both student leaders and at-risk children were brought together for the conference.

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