Community efforts can keep students safe


RUMFORD — Kids just want to have fun, particularly when it’s time to graduate. The problem is, sometimes those good times are followed by some kind of accident.

To try to prevent that as graduation time draws near, a group of parents, students, staff and law enforcement officers gathered at Mountain Valley High School on Tuesday night to brainstorm ideas that could provide lots of fun while steering away from drugs and alcohol.

“It’s a community effort to take an active role to keep everyone safe,” said Sgt. Tracey Higley, a Rumford police officer who frequently walks around and visits with teens, or helps out, at the school. “If anyone sees a dangerous situation, let the staff, teachers or police know.”

Cpl. Doug Maifeld, who also works with or gets to know youngsters in the school, said sometimes there’s an attitude by parents that because they may have partied when they were students, it’s somehow OK for their children to do the same that can get youngsters into trouble.

“I’m very happy to see the collaborative effort by the community,” Higley said.

Catherine Ross of Peru is a parent of a high school senior boy. She attended last year’s Keeping Students Safe initiative to try to provide some safe ideas for kids to have fun.

“We found it very effective last year,” she said.

One of her suggestions was for police officers to attend some of the senior class functions as participants, “So students can see the police on a different level, so they can know that the police can be friends,” she said.

MVHS Assistant Principal Chris Decker is the organizer of the initiative. He said last year’s senior class events and graduation had no accidents or other negative results.

And he said it’s not just seniors that the community should be concerned about. Younger students often take part in parties or other social occasions.

Several senior class officers, including President Carl Zurhorst, joined in with some ideas.

So far, the class is thinking about having a bonfire, visiting Old Orchard Beach, taking a hike, or going whitewater rafting during the week before the June 12 graduation.

Decker said each Wednesday’s senior homeroom period will toss around some other ideas for fun events prior to graduation. Project Graduation, itself, begins after the graduation ceremony. This year the class goes to Boothbay.

These events could provide a chance for students to socialize in a safe environment, Zurhorst said.

“The last thing we want is an accident or some other issue,” he said.

Decker said additional communications will be sent home to parents during the next few weeks with information on end-of-year activities.

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