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Murray Journal

Viewmont Elementary students choose to make healthy choices

Oct 31, 2016 01:30PM ● By Julie Slama

Viewmont sixth-graders perform a skit demonstrating difficult decisions students have to make and remind them to make healthy choices. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Murray, Utah - Make healthy choices” was the clear message to Viewmont Elementary students as Parents Empowered, the president of Murray School Board of Education, Miss Murray, Murray Police and others teamed to convey the message.

“Underage drinking may be a tough thing for a six-year-old to understand, but ‘stop, think, and make a healthy choice,’ they can relate to — and it can mean on the playground to being confronted with uncomfortable choices,” Principal Missy Hamilton said. “We have minimal homework, but our real ‘homework’ is to have a conversation with your kids, ask who they are sitting with at lunch, how they can be a better friend. When we talk and engage with our kids, we’re empowered and are having a more powerful influence with our children.”

Tying into Red Ribbon month — dedicated to substance abuse and violence prevention education — at the Oct. 5 assembly, student leaders performed a skit with rocks representing how hard decisions can weigh heavily upon students. This tied into Geneva Rock Product’s Gravel Asphalt Sales Manager Adam Anderson bringing stones for each elementary student to remind them about stopping, thinking and deciding to make a healthy choice.

“It’s a physical reminder that they can tuck in their backpack or put on their night stand to remind them that they are not alone,” Anderson said. “They have parents, teachers, community members and businesses that are rooting for them and wanting them to resist underage drinking.”

Doug Murakami, with Utah Department Beverage Control and representing Parents Empowered, said the message reached those approaching junior high age.

“For those of you who will be going to junior high, a lot more importance will be placed on your goals and who you are,” he said. “Think back to this assembly, hold your thinking stone, and make sure you’re strong and do the right thing for you and your future. Don’t follow students who make poor choices.”

Murakami applauded Murray, which has become a model community, bringing together many entities and individuals to get the message to students. 

“Murray is taking a lead to reach the kids before they start down the path and reach a place they don’t want to be in the future. Everyone is taking a stand to educate students and parents what is right and wrong and putting a curriculum and message out for students to make healthy choices,” he said.

Part of the healthy choice, Miss Murray Alyse Horton said is to promote activities that they love, that lead to a healthy lifestyle. A graduate of Murray High and Westminster College and with a platform of prescription drug abuse prevention, she emphasized sports to the students since she was a former college athlete in volleyball and basketball.

“I want them to get out and do something they love and be healthy at it,” Horton said. “Many of you already are making so many wonderful decisions. Remember to make healthy choices — I’m all about that.”

Murray School District Prevention Specialist Deb Ashton said that with the support of a Parents Empowered mini-grant of $10,000, a three-part program was launched with 25 community coalition leaders to reach Murray students with the message to stop underage drinking.

“In a Murray student survey in September, students in eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders were drinking at higher rates than their counterparts across the state,” Ashton said. “We need to start a dialogue with students and parents that underage drinking is wrong.”

E-cigarette and marijuana use amongst those grades in a 2015 survey also were higher than their peers statewide.

Ashton said that part of the program has a Parents Empowered booth in schools during the fall parent-teacher conferences. This booth has scripts to start the conversations about the importance of students recognizing the harmful effects of underage drinking on the developing brain as well as to promote that dialogue in families.

“We’ve incorporated it into our district curriculum so every classroom is learning the same thing at their level, the same vocabulary, doing the same interactive fun activities and learning the skills to make healthy choices,” she said.

Murray Board of Education President Mitzie Huff said that she hopes the message reached students.

“When they’re faced with it, we hope they have the confidence to stand up to the pressure and realize their future depends on their decision,” Huff said. “We want them to be successful members of our community now and in the future.”