JOSEPH CITY - Joseph City schools invited the Navajo Coalition Against Drug Abuse to present information to approximately 250 students in grades 6-12 Nov. 19. A panel of recovering addicts and law enforcement shared their personal stories and warnings about the danger of drugs, particularly methamphetamines. Students paid particular attention to the warnings to make wise choices and to make a plan on how to say "no" when approached to use illegal substances.
Winslow Police Sgt. Arturo Zacarias shared his personal story of growing up with addicted parents who were dead before he was 20. Faced with the challenges of "going nowhere" and not even completing high school, today he works in all aspects of patrol and law enforcement among a population he knows all too well. He earned his GED and has learned to overcome personal life issues and obstacles resulting from childhood traumas to become "the best person I can be, for me and my family," he said.
Panelist Rudy Ramirez was released from prison in November 2006 on a seven-year sentence for manufacturing meth in Snowflake. A 1990 graduate of Snowflake High School, Ramirez had an ideal life until 1994 when one line of meth spun Ramirez's life out of control. He went from using to selling to manufacturing.
After a lab raid in 1998 he served two jail stints and was on intensive probation. Even after rehabilitation he relapsed and wound up in prison in 2001. Prison saved his life. Ramirez has been clean for six years. He remains on probation while putting his life back together and reacquainting himself with a child who was four months old when he was first arrested.
A graduate of Winslow High School, Charn Payne began using meth after high school. She was employed by the state as a sign language interpreter for the Winslow Elementary School but as her meth use escalated, she had to resign her job. She became homeless and tried rehab for four months, but was using again just two weeks before graduation. Less than a year later, she sold meth to an undercover informant, was arrested and jailed. Sentenced to weekly urinalysis (UAs) testing, she failed four tests in a month and was sentenced in March 2005 to long-term rehab and four years probation. She has been clean since but says it is a daily struggle. With her partner Rick Lee, she started the Crystal Meth Anonymous group in Winslow and chairs a Narcotics Anonymous meeting there, too.
The final panelist, Shanna Hughs is a 38-year-old mother currently incarcerated at Navajo County Jail on meth-related charges. Her meth use spanned 10 years, beginning with an addiction to diet pills. Hughs is due for release shortly, after serving a one-year sentence.
For information on the Coalition Against Drug Abuse, contact Debe Campbell at 928-368-7519 or email@example.com.