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County PRIDE team brings message to D-B Elementary

DEERING -- After three years, every Lawrence County PRIDE show still makes Rock Hill High School senior Brandi Akers cry.

"This is my third and last year, and I'm going to miss it," she said.

Wednesday afternoon, an entourage of 47 high school students in the Lawrence County PRIDE (Parents' Resource Institute for Drug Education) Program ran into the packed gymnasium at Dawson-Bryant Elementary. This is the group's third performance of the school year, with their first ones being at Chesapeake and Fairland high schools.

Lawrence County Safe and Drug Free Schools coordinator Tim Willis said the group consists of high school freshmen to seniors from all over the county, who have been selected by their schools' principals and guidance counselors. The students have pledged to not use alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Sometimes, tryouts are required, he said. When the group is selected, the students rehearse often, starting in June.

PRIDE performances are a display of the students' talents, including acting, singing and dancing, which are used to educate their audiences about issues such as drugs and child abuse. At Wednesday's performance at Dawson-Bryant, the PRIDE students left some of the performances dealing with more mature subjects such as abuse to the third through fifth graders.

Principal Eric Holmes was pleased with the performance.

"They're an excellent group with excellent talents," he said. "They did a wonderful performance. We appreciate what they do more than anyone we would hire or pay (to perform for the students)."

Dawson-Bryant High School senior Aaron Fields has been involved with PRIDE since his freshman year after having the yearning to be around more high school students who do not use alcohol or drugs. Besides getting hugs from several audience members at every performance, he has a whole group of new friends from other schools, friends he may have not met otherwise.

"I love it. We all have different personalities, but they're all great," Fields said. "We mesh well together, and there's a lot of good talent."

"I'm proud to call them my best friends," he said.

Akers said she did not know many people at other schools until she joined PRIDE. Now all the other students are her best friends. These types of friends, she said, are few and far between for many high school students. For some students her age, they frequently get to know other students, who they may like personally, but they cannot hang out with those other students much outside of school because of some of their activities, she said.

"PRIDE has been my whole life for the past three years, but I'll be in PRIDE for life," Akers said. "You can always be in PRIDE unless you choose not to be and pick your own downfall."