Students learn from first lady

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AUBURN – They didn’t quite understand who Karen Baldacci was.

“First lady what?” asked one fifth-grader.

But everyone in the class got her message.

“If you drink, it’ll ruin your life forever. I’ll always keep that in mind,” said 11-year-old Amanda Williams.

Baldacci – a certified teacher and Gov. John Baldacci’s wife – spent nearly an hour Thursday teaching a fifth-grade class at Webster Intermediate School about the dangers of underage drinking. The students, mostly 10 and 11 years old, have had lessons on drinking and drug use in the past. But Baldacci’s class, complete with a pop quiz and a this-is-your-brain-on-drugs type demonstration, was a little more comprehensive.

“I want them to know what it is and why it’s not a good choice,” said Baldacci, who is touring schools throughout Maine as part of a national initiative and a statewide push to prevent underage drinking.

On Thursday, she met with about 20 kids from Nichole Dutil’s class.

“Drinking is one of those things you really want to take a second look at, make the right choice,” she told them.

Through a pop quiz and role playing, the kids talked about the problems with underage drinking and ways to say no if offered a drink. They watched rubbing alcohol blanche and destroy an egg, showing what alcohol could do to a young brain.

“I’ll remember it can ruin your life. It can damage your brain. Even if you’re thinking it’s cool, it’s a bad choice,” said Elijah Moreshead, 10.

They drew pictures and wrote messages urging other kids not to drink before they turn 21.

“Because your body can’t take it when you’re younger,” said 11-year-old Matt Pelletier.

A few students didn’t realize that Baldacci wasn’t a regular teacher. When she asked if they had any questions about her experience as first lady, they looked puzzled.

They could easily rattle off reasons not to drink, though. And that was fine with Baldacci.

“I think you guys got the message today,” she said.

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