HCSO Chief Deputy Tony Allen hands out certificates during DREAM class graduation for Hawkins County fifth-graders last month. (photo courtesy of HCSO)
ROGERSVILLE — A Hawkins County fifth grader wrote in an essay last month
he is angry that his mother chose drugs over him, but thanks to a class
offered by the Hawkins County Sheriff's Office, the boys says he won't
follow in her footsteps.
In 2011-12 Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson launched the DREAM (Drug
Resistance Education and Anger Management) program in Hawkins County
Schools, with SROs teaching the class one day per week for 10 weeks to
every fifth-grader in the county school system.
At the end of the 10-week course, students are asked to write an essay
talking about what the DREAM program has meant to them.
The SRO at Hawkins Elementary School brought one of this year's student
essays to the attention of Lawson.
Lawson said that essay touched his heart so much that he wanted to share it
with the public.
In the essay, the boy stated that DREAM is the best thing he's ever been
a part of. He learned that drugs can sometimes kill, how not to bully,
smoking can hurt you really bad, and that quitting drugs is a good thing.
"I liked every moment of DREAM," the boy wrote in his essay. "I wish my
mom was there because she has a bad addiction to drugs. I wish you (the
SRO instructor) could see her and talk to her about drugs, and maybe she
will understand what drugs can and will do to you."
The boy goes on to write, "I have freedom because I don't do drugs, and
when I think of drugs I think of my mom. I really get mad because of
what she did to me. She picked drugs over me."
A letter like this is sad, but also encouraging, Lawson said.
It's sad because there are a lot of children like this little boy in
Hawkins County, as well as across the state and across the country.
Undoubtedly many children who grow up watching their parents use drugs
will follow in their footsteps.
In this case, the father isn't in the picture, and the mother is a
multiple repeat offender for theft, drug possession and public
intoxication. But, the drugs are the catalyst for all her problems.
Lawson said the letter is also encouraging because this is a boy whose
family life has been terrible, and who has seen many of the worst thing
life has to offer, yet he has the wisdom to see that he doesn't have to
follow his mother's footsteps.
"I like to think a letter like this is an indication that we're
accomplishing something with the DREAM program," Lawson said. "What
makes this essay unusual is the great detail this young man goes into
about his family problems, drugs, his mother — and that's what made it
stand out. He's got the right perspective on his life, and I believe
unless something drastically changes this young man will be totally
against drugs his whole life. I sure hope so."
Unfortunately drug abuse often becomes a family tradition. Lawson said
he has witnessed that in his jail over and over.
Right now Lawson has a father and his two adult children in jail on
charges that can be traced back to drugs and alcohol; and he also has
husbands and wives, as well as siblings on jail.
"At one time we had 58 females in jail and that affected 81 children,"
Lawson said. "It has a drastic impact on the community. Everyone in the
family suffers." Lawson added, "Recently I had a former drug dealer come
talk to me about helping his children who are on drugs. I told him it
wasn't just about arresting him because he was selling drugs, it was
also about saving lives. He realizes that now that he's watching his own
children destroy their lives with drugs."
Fifth grade is a crucial age for children because they're being exposed
to more and they're becoming aware of more.
But, most of the time they have yet to make decisions that are going to
affect the rest of their lives like whether or not to try drugs.
Lawson said that's why DREAM is aimed at fifth-graders.
"Education is a crucial element of our war on drugs," he said. "We feel
the SRO program and the DREAM program are really having an impact on
children's lives. It also gives children in the classroom that officer
friend, someone they can trust and feel comfortable talking to about
problems they may be experiencing at school or at home."