Upcoming program helps students understand dangers of drug addiction

In an effort to drive home the dangers of drug use and abuse, area middle school students and a parent will have the opportunity to view The Reality Tour at no cost this year.The Reality Tour is a drug prevention and awareness program hosted by the Elk County Drug and Alcohol Consortium (ECDAC). The three-hour interactive presentation will take place at the Elk County Courthouse Annex in Ridgway beginning at 6 p.m. on the following dates: Feb. 21, March 21, April 18, May 16, Sept. 19, Oct. 17 and Nov. 21. Now in its fifth year, the tour follows the life of a teen addicted to heroin through numerous scenes acted out by area volunteers, medical and law enforcement professionals.Reality Tour Co-Directors Cindy Cortinovis, also the president of ECDAC, and Val Weis, ECDAC's treasurer, said the organization received a grant through the Stackpole Hall Foundation to offer the program free to local students for the next two years."This is the first year we are offering the program to the schools," Cortinovis said, referring to the St. Marys Area and St. Marys Catholic middle schools, as well as the Ridgway and Johnsonburg middle schools. "We are estimating about 600 middle school students to attend with this new offering."She explained that each individual school may choose which grade level will be offered the tour. Information packets will be sent home with students prior to the tour dates. Students and a parent or guardian must then decide which tour they wish to attend, then reserve their spot. A Reality Tour banner will be provided to each school in hopes that students from the chosen grade level will sign it. Students will also receive a complimentary T-shirt which they are encouraged to wear to school the day of their tour in order to promote the event."We are very excited about this," Weis added.For more on this story see the Jan. 18 edition of The Daily Press.