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Active life, caring parents are common to several youths who say `no' to drugs

Of five student leaders in a national antidrug program, all were very active in extracurricular activities in high school, four were close to their parents, and religion has played an important role in at least several of their lives. The five, who performed here for First Lady Nancy Reagan Thursday in an antidrug program, have never had a drug problem. They comprise the Pride of American Youth Panel of PRIDE, a national antidrug group based here.

Lisa Ellsworth, 20, a junior at Central Michigan University, says she never had time to get started on drugs. ``I was always so active. I had real strict parents. I had an early curfew.''

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She played basketball, was on the student council in high school, and had a part-time job.

``I think they [drugs] are very harmful; alcohol, too,'' she says, adding that she hopes the panel programs in high schools don't seem like ``preaching.''

Kari Kruger, 20, a singer from Wisconsin, who also sells jewelry, was a Miss Wisconsin in a teen pageant and has recorded an album of contemporary religious music.

What is the student reaction to their antidrug programs?

``They eat it up,'' she says. ``They find out they can entertain themselves without artificial things.''

Steve Grauberger, 19, a freshman at the University of Kansas, says, ``I've been singing since I was 3.''

Two years ago he helped organize a Kansas City summer program for inner-city youths, helping provide fun ``alternatives'' to drugs. ``We try to say, `Here, sing, dance, find sports, or other [nondrug] activities.' ''

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Steve Courtney, 17, a high school senior in Overland Park, Kan., who also helped organize the Kansas City summer programs and is currently designing some ``subtly'' antidrug messages such as ``hope is a four-letter word; so is help'' for distribution to video-game arcades nationwide.

Christine Bastian, 19, is a freshman at the University of Delaware. She is close to her mother, who helped her start the Delaware Spirit, an antidrug program involving dance and song.

She was a high school teen pageant winner, played field hockey, belonged to the drama club, played piano, and wrote for the school newspaper.

``We don't preach to our friends,'' she says. Instead she tries to teach students to say first ``I care about you,'' then tell their friends that they don't like the fact that they use drugs.

A report last year by the National Institute on Drug Abuse said ``individuals who smoke, drink, or use drugs tend to get lower grades in school, do not participate in organized extracurricular activities such as sports or clubs, and are more likely than nonusers to engage in antisocial behavior such as lying, stealing, and cheating.'' -- 30 --

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