Kids in Clearwater taking a stand against drug abuse
hen the Marshals stepped through the door of Cici’s Pizza, it was clear they had not come to buy lunch. They wanted to see the owner. It was important. Could they speak to him right away?
When the owner came out, he found himself confronted by the bright faces of three young members of the Church of Scientology’s Drug-Free Marshals — a youth anti-drug initiative which has been making its presence felt throughout Pinellas County. They asked him to sign the Drug-Free Marshals’ pledge to live a drug free life and to encourage others to do so as well.
The owner not only signed the promise, but asked his employees to do the same. “We have to do something to encourage children to stay away from drugs,” he said emphatically.
Curbing the drug crisis among county youth requires that parents and educators actively support drug prevention programs, as well as intervention measures for kids already abusing substances.
The Drug-Free Marshals program offers a preventative solution to the youth drug problem through peer pressure and education.
“The local schools have a drug education program, but back-up needs to come from the community,” said Church spokesperson Pat Harney. “Prevention has to start early and really show kids that a drug-free life is far more fun and healthy, and that they can and should help keep others off drugs.”
The Drug-Free Marshals program is a national, non-religious youth anti-drug campaign. Spanning children and adolescents from 5 to 15, the program helps them to make the decision to remain drug-free and to help others make the same choice in life.
“What happens in schools with violence is upsetting to everyone. I feel I need to do something,” said Rebecca Owens, a 13-year old Drug-Free Marshal in Clearwater. “That’s why I like being a Drug-Free Marshal and doing what I do. It actually helps people.”
Drug-Free Marshals contests have been held in Clearwater in which participants write essays and draw pictures to communicate how they can help create a drug-free community.
At one awards ceremony, the winners and 70 of their classmates were sworn in as Drug-Free Marshals by Officer Art Brown, the Public Education Director of the Clearwater Fire Department. They took a simple 7-point pledge:
“As a DRUG-FREE MARSHAL, I pledge to lead the way by:
1. Living a drug-free life;
2. Showing my friends that a drug-free life is more fun;
3. Helping my fellow DRUG-FREE MARSHALS;
4. Learning more about how drugs really harm people;
5. Telling people the truth about the harmful effects of drugs;
6. Helping my family and friends be drug-free;
7. Setting a good example to all children by leading the way to a Drug-Free USA.”
Prevention measures must start at an early age and teach kids that a drug-free life is far more fun and healthy.
Each new Drug-Free Marshal was then presented with their own “Drug-Free Marshal” badge.
“Kids who are sworn in then swear in other kids as Drug-Free Marshals. They’re empowered to swear in adults as well,” said Harney. “They set a good example to their peers. It’s sometimes easier for kids to learn from one of their friends, rather than a parent, teacher or other adult.”
The Drug-Free Marshal program was started by the Church of Scientology International in Los Angeles in 1993, with the first group of Marshals sworn in by the head of the local Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Office of Drug Demand Reduction.
Since then, the program has grown to cities and countries all over the world, with tens of thousands of kids participating in the campaign.
Locally in Pinellas County, the Drug-Free Marshals have sworn in an estimated 3,500 new Drug-Free Marshals.
For more information about the Drug-Free Marshals program, contact Pat Harney at (727) 445-4338 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.