Jefferson City Safety Kids troupe wraps up its annual message tour

Joshua Gernander celebrates after rolling a strike Sunday at Lincoln University’s bowling alley. He and other local Safety Kids held their end-of-the-season celebration at the bowling alley.

Joshua Gernander celebrates after rolling a strike Sunday at Lincoln University’s bowling alley. He and other local Safety Kids held their end-of-the-season celebration at the bowling alley.

Chavez Loaiza dutifully answered a News Tribune reporter’s questions about his participation in this year’s Safety Kids’ performances, but he certainly wasn’t intimidated. Maybe it helped that he just finished playing the role of a newsman himself, the media personality “Matt Louder.”

Chavez didn’t seem eager to take much credit, and, truthfully, he wasn’t there to talk to the newspaper. It was the end-of-the-season celebration for the 44 local Safety Kids, who brought their drug-free message to two dozen area schools through skits in October.

“Just a minute. It’s my turn,” he said in response to a question, as he ran over to his friends and bowled a frame at Lincoln University’s bowling alley, narrowly missing a spare by one pin.

Chavez and the other fifth-graders in the program were selected based on their leadership and recommendations from their music teachers. Chavez is a second-year drama club student at Thorpe Gordon Elementary, but said he was still surprised to be picked for Safety Kids.

The most exciting part for him was performing for his school and seeing the reaction of his classmates, who didn’t know he was a Safety Kid this year. “They were really shocked,” he said. “The look on their faces was funny.”

Denise Gillam directs Safety Kids, a peer-to-peer drug education program of the Council for Drug Free Youth. The 44 kids are divided into two groups, red and blue, and each group performs their singing and dancing-based skits to 12 schools during three days in October. They rehearse the skits for one week in August before school starts.

Gillam said the program’s positive messages are reflected in studies and statistics, including the fact that Cole County’s declining tobacco use among youth. Fewer kids in Cole County use tobacco than overall in Missouri, she said.

Safety Kids volunteer mom Tina Halcomb helped drive the kids from school to school. Her daughter Kaelyn is her second child to be in Safety Kids.

“I just think it’s such a positive program, and they build lasting friendships,” she said.

When it comes to drugs, Chavez plans to practice what he preaches. “I don’t want to lose my life,” he said. “I want to enjoy my life as much as I can.”

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