Middle school students ‘dodge’ drugs

MEGAN E. BLOOM/ Sun-Gazette City police officers and middle school students play dodgeball at Williamsport Area Middle School on Friday, capping Red Ribbon Week with a Dodge Drugs Dodgeball event that encouraged student to be drug free.

Williamsport Area Middle School students and city police officers ran across the school’s gymnasium eluding and pelting one another with dodgeballs to wrap up Red Ribbon Week on Friday.

The Dodge Drugs Dodgeball event was designed to integrate the community with the school to encourage students to be drug free, Sara Watson, a health teacher, said.

“Anytime we can create positivity is a benefit,” she said. “Students need to know resources are at their fingertips. There are so many awesome people to help them.”

During each period, groups of students would come into the gym with their assigned teams then go out onto the floor where there were a line of foam balls in the center. At the whistle, they sprinted to the middle and a rainbow of colors flew through the air as they tried to hit the opposing team.

Instead of ending the week with an anti-drug assembly, Watson came up with the idea to get kids active and to have a good time while telling them between the games about the negative effects of drugs.

Amy Bolt, also a health teacher, said many times police officers do not get the opportunity to engage with students in a fun atmosphere. Playing dodgeball together allowed for relationships to be built between students and police.

“We really wanted to build a connection between people who have an interest in students staying drug free,” she said.

Teenagers need to know they can turn to the police for help, she said.

“It’s important (students) know we’re here to help them and nothing more,” Officer Nikita Bonnell said.

Officer Don Barrett said they do not want kids to be afraid of them but that they are approachable.

“This event is lighthearted, they can see we’re people just like them,” he said.

Nayim Ali, a seventh-grader, said he liked the event because it teaches kids how to get away from drugs and that kids can have fun without doing drugs.

He said the police are role models because they make a positive impact on the community by not using drugs.

Allora Davies and Raelyn Sicler, two seventh-graders, enjoyed hanging out with friends and meeting new people by playing dodgeball.

Davies said she wishes the school would do events like that more often because it brings the school together.

Getting to know the officers was beneficial because she knows they can protect her and her fellow students.

To celebrate Red Ribbon Week students had dress up days where they were encouraged to wear their favorite sports jersey, dress like a nerd, be a superhero and dress as somebody’s twin.