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Students get the message
By Ted Johnson
Exact publish date of this article is currently unknown.
Janet Evans didn’t have to mention the word “drugs.”
When the three-time Olympic gold medal swimmer appeared Tuesday at the William Lyon School in Orange, where most students come from families in which abuse, neglect and drug use are common, all she had to do was talk about being disciplined.
The kids in the audience got the message.
“For me,” Evans told about 60 students, ages 10 to 17, “motivation is desire.” “You have to want it no matter how bad it hurts. I missed out on a lot of social events because I had such a strict (swimming) workout schedule.”
“Sometimes I would feel pressure to skip a workout. Let’s say I do. Then I’ll find reasons to skip other workouts.”
Evans, 17, who will be a freshman at Stanford University in the fall, said that although she never has had an encounter with drugs, she can relate to students who have, in part because she is close to them in age.
“I will be a positive role model for the kids,” she said with determination.
Evan’s appearance followed a speech by Thomas Martin, a former Drug Enforcement Agency agent turned private investigator, who often lectures on what happens to people who use drugs. On this day, he had invited the swimming star to come along.
Whereas Martin spoke of tragedy, Evans talked about the success she achieved through strict discipline. Staying away from the drug and alcohol party scene, Evans told the students, helped her win gold medals and national attention.
Evans told the students that she had to overcome the intimidation of athletes in Iron Curtain countries who would “stare her down” before events. Martin said he hoped that image would show the students that they could overcome the use of drugs.
“We want to relay to the students that you can take the same idea, the same intimidation, and apply it to drugs,” he said. “We want them to know that when they go to a party where there is pressure to do drugs, the thing you do is to stare them down and leave.”
Many of the students knew from their own experiences what drugs can do to families. One girl told a reporter that her dad used to give drugs to her, and that her sister had died of an overdose. Another said she regularly saw marijuana around her home. When Martin asked how many people knew someone who had died because of drugs or alcohol, about three-fourths of the students raised their hands.
One 12 year-old said he was impressed by Evans.
“I guess most people would be inspired by Olympic stars,” he said. “For most of them, they would follow the advice of important people.”
Although Evans has spoken at many schools, this was the first time she had visited William Lyon, which is part of the country’s Orangewood Children’s Home for neglected juveniles. Still, the students asked many of the usual questions: What was it like to get a gold medal? How did her friends treat her when she got back from high school? And what was it like leaving home for such far-off places as the Soviet Union and East Germany?
They gazed at one of her medals as it was passed around the lecture hall. They oohed and aahed when she told them whom she had met since her victories: President Reagan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael J. Fox and Tom Selleck. And afterwards, the students surrounded her, requesting autographs.
Martin said officials of the school have asked him to give similar drug-abuse presentations each month. He said he is attempting to line up members of the California Angels and Los Angeles Rams as futures speakers.
Martin’s presentation featured slides of victims who had overdosed on drugs such as heroin, crack and cocaine. Many students said that the slides were horrible enough to scare them away from using drugs.
“I’m chicken to do it,” said an 11 year-old boy. “I’m proud to say I’m chicken.”
“We try to give them a situation that they can identify with,” Martin said. “We are trying to create a situation where they will fell that it is cool now to leave a party where there are drugs.”
One 13 year-old girl said that the presentation told her about her own situation.
“That really showed something to me – that I really should not be involved in drugs,” she said. “It showed me that what my mother does is wrong.”