Ralls County Elementary School students explore variety of careers, importance of a drug-free path to success

Ralls County Elementary Students learned the importance of following a drug-free path to their future careers on Friday, Oct. 26.

Elementary Counselor Diana Duckworth said the theme for this year's fair was “Life is a Journey: Live it Drug-Free.” She said the students practiced their etiquette and participated in dress-up days and other career-focused activities in their classes each day of career week. On Friday, about 330 students in Kindergarten through fifth grades visited with representatives from various career paths, asking questions about the jobs and talking about their chosen career paths.

Third grader Maggie Hicks said she would like to pursue a career in basketball “because I get to have fun and I get to play with all my friends.” Fellow third grader Brynlea Mayerhofer said she “really likes animals” and hopes to become a veterinarian.

As second grade student Bennett Bogue and fellow classmates saw the process of making a newspaper and the steps for online and print publications, he said “I want to be a reporter, too.” Third grader Third grader Tucker Pendzinski and second grader Jayden Hurt both said they would like to pursue careers in law enforcement.

Tucker said he wanted “to make sure our country is safe and protected,” and Jayden said he wanted to make sure that people breaking the law were arrested. His favorite station featured officials with the Ralls County Sheriff's Department.
Chief Deputy Ronald Haught said the addition of a School Resource Officer (SRO) this year has transformed kids' perceptions. He smiled as he said that he gets 150 high-fives each time he sees students getting off the bus.

“It's made a very interesting shift — just like that, where the kids say they want to be a sheriff,” he said. “We're seeing more and more of that participation. These kids are excited, and they have someone around that they can talk to and they can learn from. It's been a great situation for the school, and it's a great situation for the community. We've been very fortunate to do this.”

As children filed up to a special ballot box with help from Ralls County Clerk Sandy Lanier and Voter Registration Clerk Hali Kelly, they cast their votes for their favorite type of pizza. Kelly and Lanier will return the following week to report the results to the students. Lanier said it helped to show each student the importance of voting early, along with reinforcing decision-making skills.

“I think it's important for kids to know that they can vote, and if we start them out at a young age learning — we're voting on pizzas today — they'll learn later in life the importance of what a real vote is,” Lanier said, stressing that students learn to research and make better decisions, too.

“At a young age, if they have to think about things, then when they get older, they'll do research to figure out what they want to vote on,” she said. “They'll take more time, if we encourage our children to make decisions now, then later in life they'll be capable of making those decisions.”

Duckworth smiled as she talked about the fourth grade challenge she gives to each student — not to try drugs or alcohol up through their senior year — and she will take them out for dinner.

You can be very, very smart, but if you don't live that drug-free lifestyle, sometimes your dreams will shatter,”she said.

So far, Duckworth has heard from two seniors who told her they stuck to the challenge, and she looks forward to hearing from more students in the future who have followed a path free of drugs.

trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com