RUMFORD – Mountain Valley High School has done a really good job of helping to provide activities for graduation week and to show that celebrations don’t have to involve alcohol or drugs, said Marissa Gauvin, Class of 2009 president.

“Now it’s up to the students,” added senior Megan Arsenault.

That was the intention, said Principal Matt Gilbert, when he, Assistant Principal Chris Decker, social worker Rick Greene, and school board member and Rumford police Sgt. Tracey Higley began brainstorming last year about what could be done to steer young people away from alcohol and change a societal attitude that seems to associate celebrations with its consumption.

After the Class of 2008 graduated last June, a party attended by a large number of graduates resulted in the arrest or summons of many of them for illegal use of alcohol.

“We started to formulate a plan then,” said Gilbert. “Some parents think it’s OK, that it’s going to happen and that it’s always been like that. There haven’t been any tragedies in recent years. We want to prevent that.”

Gilbert is hoping that students will make smart choices. He said Drug Abuse Resistance Education is available for older elementary children and middle school students to learn about the adverse effects in health class. But when such education could really help, at high school age, very little education is provided.

To help change that, a series of forums, presentations, assemblies and speakers have been at the high school beginning in April.

On Wednesday, May 20, a final presentation will be made at noon by Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant and Sgt. Higley for all juniors and seniors.

During the past two months, seniors have heard how a drunken-driving conviction has affected a woman’s life, learned the impact on a bartender who served alcohol that resulted in a death, listened to a presentation by a lawyer for the father of a daughter who was killed as a result of an alcohol-impaired driver, and have had the opportunity, with their parents, to take part in a brainstorming community forum. Letters, notes and postcards have gone home to parents.

Students helped with the planning of events for graduation week, with the belief that if there are lots of fun things to do, alcohol won’t appear.

Kiley Clement, one of the planners and secretary for the Class of 2009, said her classmates just want to socialize and celebrate.

“Some don’t know how,” she said.

Planned for Wednesday of graduation week, June 3, are a barbecue, movie night and bonfire. On Thursday, seniors travel to Old Orchard Beach, and Friday includes a last assembly, class banquet and class night.

Graduation, which will be the final one for SAD 43, takes place at 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 6. Most of the 130-student class will leave the high school after the ceremony and be driven to Boothbay for an overnight celebration. Most of the costs for the outings and other activities will be covered by senior class fundraisers and by the sheriff’s and Rumford police departments, said Clement, who plans to attend the University of Maine and major in nursing.

“This will give kids a chance to be together. A lot of kids who don’t drink want to be with their friends but don’t want to get into trouble,” said Gauvin, who plans to attend the University of Maine at Farmington to study psychology.

Arsenault, who will study advertising at Southern New Hampshire University, believes the activities provide a good, clean way to have fun.

For Gilbert, the whole purpose of the months of planning is to show fun can be had without the use of drugs.

“We are focusing on the positive. I feel we aren’t sitting back, we’re trying to be proactive. We’re trying to change the attitude,” he said.

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