Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

April 19, 2013

Federal officials bring anti-drug, anti-bullying message to middle school

BLUEFIELD — Click here for video

Apparently, all that you have to do to impress a few hundred middle school students in Bluefield is to arrive in a Black Hawk helicopter and bring a trio of exceptional speakers to deliver an anti-drug, anti-bullying and cautionary Internet safety message.

“How was that for an entrance!” Jeff Matthews, principal of Bluefield Middle School said, prior to introducing the guest speakers at the assembly.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin and U.S. Marshal John D. Foster, both of the Southern District of West Virginia, and Major General James Hoyer, adjutant general of the West Virginia National Guard absolutely captivated the audience of sixth, seventh and eighth grade students packed in the bleachers at the BMS gymnasium.

Goodwin got the student body wound up by asking the three classes to shout: “Let’s Go Buccaneers!” Although each speaker spoke in broad general terms about the dangerous repercussions of bullying, drug abuse and Internet safety, each had a personal message about the issue.

Goodwin told a story about a 13-year-old girl from Pennsylvania who started communicating with someone in a chat room. Although she believed him to be a boy her age, the person she communicated with was actually an adult man. When they met in person, the man kidnapped her, “tied her up, put her in a dungeon and made her do terrible things,” Goodwin said. “(She) was rather lucky. She got out of there with her life.”

Goodwin expanded his discussion of cyber dangers by asking the students not to take inappropriate pictures of themselves and send them to someone else. “Once that picture leaves your phone, you can’t get it back,” he said.

By the time Goodwin finished his presentation, the BMS students were sitting on the edge of their seats. Foster’s personal story of the bullying he was exposed to as a young man seemed to really captivate the students.

“The part about bullying was my favorite part of the presentation,” Shadana Rogers, an eighth grade BMS student said after the assembly concluded.

Foster was small when he was in first grade, and other kids in his school started bullying him. “I was a poor student,” he said. “I hated going to school.” He said that he hated it when other students called him stupid, ignorant, a moron and another word that he had trouble saying.

He said that his oldest brother was killed in a fire that destroyed their manufactured home. “My brother was 16 when he passed away in that fire.” Even with the personal tragedy, the bullying he experiences didn’t let up. “When I went back to school, the bullying got worse.” He went through a growth spurt as a high school freshman, and the bullying stopped. Still, it had a profound impact on him.

“I hate cyber bullying. That’s the worst thing I know,” he said. He went on to say that when he tried to go to college to wrestle, he found out that he suffered from dyslexia. Once he got help for that disorder, he discovered a love of reading. He served 20 years in the West Virginia Air National Guard, six years as a state trooper, joined the U.S. Marshal’s service, and was assigned to some major events.

“I’ve had an exciting career,” he said. “I’ve been married 31 years. I finally did graduate. In 2010, the president of the United States appointed me to be the U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of West Virginia.”

Gen. Hoyer narrated two video presentations that showed soldiers and airmen in non-traditional roles. He said that the military personnel in the videos had some things in common. “They don’t do drugs and they don’t abuse alcohol,” he said. “They don’t have law enforcement violations. They stay physically fit and they love their families, their communities and their country so much that they do the things you saw them do in the video.”

Hoyer’s message was about choices and not using drugs. “If you want to get high, join the military and jump out of a plane at 10,000 feet,” he said.

Logan Davis, an eighth grade student at BMS said his favorite part of the assembly was watching the Black Hawk helicopter land.

“I have taught school for 42 years, and this is the best assembly I have ever attended,” David Thomas, a teacher at BMS said at the end of the assembly.

The trio of speakers have visited several schools in the 23-county region of the Southern District of West Virginia.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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