Hilo Intermediate hosts Meth Awareness Day

December 04, 2015 - West Hawaii Today

“Cook rice, not ice” was a popular message Thursday during Meth Awareness Day at Hilo Intermediate School.

The Hawaii Meth Project was on campus with both classroom education and hands-on activities during a lunchtime rally, such as suction-cup archery and plastic bowling games with anti-drug themes.

Also popular, especially with the girls, were non-permanent face decals with the Hawaii Meth Project logo, their motto, “not even once,” and, of course, “cook rice, not ice” — written on an image of a rice cooker.

Georgianna DeCosta, the organization’s executive director, said the message is geared at educating youngsters about the detrimental effect crystal methamphetamine, or “ice,” has on both the human body as well as human relationships.

“It’s not just, ‘Don’t do it because we say so,’” she said. “It’s more trying to help them understand, so they can decide for themselves. Then, once we get some of the kids to decide for themselves that it’s bad, then, hopefully, we can get them into spreading the word peer-to-peer.”

Among the students — all seventh-graders — who spoke with the Tribune-Herald, none said they had ever been offered meth, and all were happy that is the case.

“It’s not good for you,” said Dez Williams, who added if someone asked or pressured her to try it, she would “just straight up say ‘no’ and walk away.”

Kainalu Santos agreed, adding he’d “say no, give ’em an excuse and walk away.”

Kailena Sales had a simple message when it comes to drugs: “No, I don’t want.”

Cain Ross said he’s tell someone who offered him drugs, “That’s bad.” He’d then “just ignore them or walk away.”

Officer Bryan Tina, the school’s resource officer from the Hawaii Police Department, moved easily among the students, a friendly presence conversing and laughing with them.

One young man came up to Tina and slapped him a low-five, and both laughed.

“What I’m here for is to be a positive role model, to hopefully make a positive impact in their lives,” he said. “Some of them, maybe they only associate police in a negative aspect. And, hopefully, being in the school, I can help change that perception of who a police officer is and what we represent.”

Tina said he sees less evidence of drug use at the school now than when he arrived there.

“When I first started here a little over four years ago, there was a lot more activity, mostly marijuana use, in the schools, but it’s gone down drastically, as far as this school goes,” he said.

Tina also praised the work the Hawaii Meth Project is doing in the schools.

“I think there’s a partnership here, getting the word out there that it’s not good for you,” he said.

DeCosta said the Hawaii Meth Project is now in its sixth year, and its first cohort of students have just graduated from high school.

She noted an SMS Research study commissioned by the Hawaii Meth Project that shows social disapproval by students of drug use has increased since 2009, when disapproval of meth was at 82 percent.

“Our latest statistics show us that social disapproval rates with the youth are extremely high right now, 96 percent,” she said. “Unfortunately, adult use is still at a high rate. Hopefully, with this generation, we can see the trends switching.”

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