Kim George, an employee at the Cherokee County Farm Bureau office, has taken on a cause in recent months, and it is benefiting many area students.
George felt that Cherokee County students needed some education about methamphetamines and the devastating results of meth abuse. She did some research on the Internet and discovered there were many free drug education materials available. She spoke to all the county middle school principals about the possibility of presenting an educational program to their students. All agreed that it should be done. Cherokee Middle School Principal Larry Weede commented that if she had asked in previous years, he'd have said the education should be given to the seventh and eighth graders, but that now, he felt that fifth and sixth graders should be a target audience as well.
George concluded that her idea certainly had merit, and she planned to approach the Cherokee Farm Bureau Board about their providing support for a meth presentation. The Farm Bureau office had already been doing some community education projects in the last couple of years, and George felt that an educational program about meth abuse would tie right in with other the other programs.
George contacted Lt. Rick Henderson, District 5 Commander of the Iowa State Patrol in December, asking if he would present a program at the Cherokee office's year-end Board of Directors' meeting. Henderson obliged, and did a presentation on methamphetamine abuse at the Dec. 8 meeting held in Marcus.
The material presented had the desired effect on the Board, and George, with the Board's endorsement, again called Henderson. He put her in touch with Trooper Stu Christians, and George and Christians put together a program and scheduled presentations for all the students in grades 5-8 in Cherokee County.
The Cherokee Farm Bureau Office received four cases of handouts, posters and pamphlets on drug abuse, mostly from federal government agencies. George also obtained a pamphlet on methamphetamines, printed by Pioneer Seeds, for distribution at their presentations.
The Cherokee Farm Bureau has absorbed all costs for these materials. George has attended every program, and assisted with handing out materials, as well as with the logistics of the setting.
The first presentation was on Jan. 11, to a total of 342 Cherokee Middle School students in grades 5-6 (first presentation) and grades 7-8 (second presentation) .
One week later, on Jan. 18, the presentation was made to a total of 170 students in grades 5-8 at the middle school in Cleghorn. Principal Bill Sillau was very pleased with the program and thinks it should become a regular part of each school year.
A week later, the program was presented to a total of 80 students at the Aurelia Middle School. Grades 5 and 6 attended the first presentation and grades 7 and 8 attended the second one, which started just 45 minutes after the first presentation began, so it is short in length, which is probably good for short attention spans.
In addition to handing out materials, Christians presents a video showing the "before and after" effects on meth abuse, which has had a profound effect on most of the students. The duo asks the audience 1. Whether they know what meth is; and 2) Whether they, or someone they know, has used meth. George says she was shocked when what she estimates as 90-95 per cent of the young audience raised their hands, indicating a "yes" response. This has strengthened her resolve even further, as the problem seems to be even more widespread than she first feared.
George hopes that they can continue to present to these groups at least once a year. They have since presented to an area 4-H group as well, and their next target audience will be high school students. George feels they will probably have to alter the material they use a little, since what they have been doing is geared for a middle school-aged audience.
Henderson has expressed his respect for George's "going out of her way to set up and coordinate" the programs, and offers his thanks and gratitude for her "getting involved and taking the time to make these programs informative and successful.