Seven students from St. Michael School in Newark probably know a little bit more about drugs, alcohol, peer-pressure and other health-related topics than most pupils. They put that knowledge to the test March 26, when they traveled to Syracuse University and went head-to-head with another team in a quiz-bowl style tournament.
That tournament, which attracted approximately 20 teams from various parts of New York state, was part of the Rite Aid Drug Quiz Show, said Hugh Spink, health teacher at St. Michael and coach of the school’s quiz-bowl team. Spink’s team of six fifth-graders and one eighth-grader had been studying for the tournament since January, and although they were defeated in the first round, Spink said he was very proud of his students.
“Our first round we lost 19 to 15, but our kids were going against eighth-graders. (The competition) was just back and forth, back and forth. They did absolutely fantastic,” Spink said.
The Rite Aid Drug Quiz Show’s beginnings date back to 1984, when an eighth-grader from DeWitt, N.Y., suggested that she and her peers might be more inclined to learn about drug abuse if the material was presented in a game-show format, according to the program’s official Web site, drugquizshow.org. The first competition was held in 1985, and by 1989 the program had grown to include nearly 5,000 students in five counties in New York state.
Since 1990 the program has been sponsored first by Fay’s Drug Stores, then Eckerd Pharmacy and finally Rite Aid Pharmacy, which purchased the Eckerd chain in 2007, according to the Web site. Rite Aid provides worksheets, study guides, test questions and activities for participating students and coaches, Spink said. This information covers everything from various kinds of drugs, such as stimulants, depressants and steroids, to alcohol, self-esteem, conflict resolution, stress-relief techniques and ways to be successful.
“Rite Aid does a great job with the material. I just love the information that they give to the kids. There’s all kinds of information they have to study and answer questions about when asked,” Spink said.
The Rite Aid Drug Quiz Show competition has three different components. During the first part of the competition a mediator asks a question, and the team members can talk amongst themselves and together work out an answer, which the team captain then gives to the mediator, Spink said. During the second phase team members answer questions individually, and during the third phase a question is read to both teams, and any team member can buzz in if he or she knows the correct answer.
Pressing the buzzer is one of the most exciting parts of the competition, fifth-grader Amanda Wersinger told the Catholic Courier during a Feb. 27 lunchtime practice session. Most of her teammates emphatically agreed, but the buzzer is not the only reason they enjoy the quiz-bowl competition.
“We like learning about the different kinds of drugs and why not to use them,” said fellow fifth-grader Molly McKechney, who said she joined the quiz-bowl team because it sounded fun and interesting.
Classmate Ryan Tellier said he joined the team “to learn about drugs and how they can affect your body and to not take them.”
“It’s going really good, and we like it because we’re all friends and we get to be there for each other,” Ryan said as he sat at the lunch table with his friends and teammates.
Amanda said she especially likes the competition’s multiple-choice questions. Most of the teammates agreed that although they like working together, coming to a consensus when answering group questions can be tough.
“Everyone usually has their own answer and you have to pick one,” Ryan said.
“It would be so much easier if they wouldn’t all (talk) at the same time,” added eighth-grader Mary Rose Costello.
The teammates said they usually get a little nervous before competing.
“It’s kind of scary at first,” Ryan said. “We just try to calm down, and they give us water.”
“Water helps everything,” Molly added.
Despite their anxiety, the seven team members said they enjoyed studying for and competing in the competition, and they learned a lot about drugs, alcohol and even a few unexpected things, like what professions they’ll probably avoid in the future.
Fifth-grader Eric Kuan said he learned, “Being a doctor is too hard.”
“I never wanted to be a doctor anyway,” Mary Rose chimed in.
Ryan, however, was not so sure.
“I might want to be a doctor,” he said thoughtfully.
The St. Michael team competed against a school from Worcester, Otsego County, in the March 26 competition, which took place in Syracuse University’s Marley Education Center. The students were excused from school early for their 1:15 p.m. competition, and didn’t return until nearly 4 p.m. Although they didn’t win, they enjoyed their outing and are already clamoring to compete again next year, Spink said.
“That’s the first thing they asked me,” he said. “They just can’t wait until next year. They had a blast.”