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PUPILS HAVE OWN IDEAS ON DRUG WAR SCHOOL 53 STUDENTS SHOW EDUCATION IS KEY TO VICTORY

Youngsters from School 53 have their own ideas about how President Bush can wage a drug war.

At the top of the list, Raven Wagstaff, 11, said, "is teaching kids how bad they (drugs) are, and start teaching kids when they are small."

Next, Roshell Canter, 12, insists, is "when you send the people who sell drugs to jail, send them for a long, long time."

"Right now, they know they just go in for a little while and then they are back on the streets and selling drugs again. I think they should go for 10, maybe 20 years," she added.

Janious Robinson, 13, puts "teaching kids to say 'no' and be sure they mean it" near the top of the list.

They and their classmates talked about drugs in between bites of a lunch at a restaurant Friday. It was their reward for the prize-winning letters they had written after listening to the Rev. William Coplin of Urban Christian Ministries, at 30 E. Utica St., talk to them about drugs.

"Our school is clean," Kevin Davis, 12, wanted to make clear, "but you can see them selling and buying drugs on the street. Anybody who wants drugs . . . you can get them easy."

It's the third year that Mr. Coplin, along with a former drug addict, has been taking his drug awareness programs to the city schools.

"We talk to more than 4,000 kids each year," he said, "and then we ask them to write letters and tell us what they think about what we said and about drugs."

From each school, the authors of 15 "best" letters are invited to be Mr. Coplin's luncheon guests.

"Drugs are just disgusting," John Campfield, 12, flatly stated. "Just last week . . . a guy asked me if I wanted drugs. He even put the drugs out where I could see them but I never answered him. I just kept on walking fast."

The students' letters left little doubt that they were listening to Mr. Coplin. The common thread was that "drugs are bad for you."

They took Mr. Coplin up on his suggestion that they put a sign over their beds stating what they would like to be when they grow up.

Belinda Reid wrote that her sign said "lawyer."

Damon Smith had not quite decided on a career, but he ended his letter with "I'm gonna make it!"

"I've got terrific kids in my school," Principal Donette Ruffin said. "I agree with the kids when they say we don't have a drug problem in our school. The majority of the children at the school believe in what they are taught . . . believe that drugs are harmful and can destroy your brain.

"Education is the key to everything and the more we can teach them about drugs, the better it is," she said.

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