- Associated Press - Saturday, August 30, 2014

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. (AP) - Educators, parents and law enforcement officers work daily to present a different image of drugs and violence to children than they might get from their peers and pop culture.

Among friends, having a drink, smoking a joint or trying even harder narcotics might be accepted, even expected.

Young people also can be inundated with graphic violent scenes in movies, television shows, music videos and video games where shootings, stabbings and beatings occur often without any consequences.

It can be challenging for responsible adults to counteract those influences.

But many try, because the stakes for the children and the community as a whole are high.

“We’re battling this generation of addicts and dealers,” said Kevin Price, Cambria County Drug Task Force field supervisor. “We need to educate the next generation. . We need to save the next generation.

“We’re having a helluva time with this generation. They’re dying every day.”

Children process information about the dangers of drugs in different ways.

Some respond best to kind words. Others need stern lectures and harsh discipline before the message gets through.

The task is even more difficult when the children come from homes with disengaged parents, leaving maturing teenagers looking to older friends in the neighborhood for role models.

Even though all cases are different, simply being willing to talk to a student is often the best thing an educator can do.

“My job at (Greater Johnstown High School) is mostly to develop a personal relationship with the kids, to be another voice than what they hear in the community,” said school Resource Officer Chad Miller, who is a member of the Johnstown Police Department.

Michael Dadey, the high school’s assistant principal and safety coordinator for the district, added: “We have an open-door policy with our students.

“At any point in time, any of our students can come to our door and say, ‘Hey, we need to talk.’ That’s been taken advantage of. I think another thing that a lot of people would be surprised about is how many people actually go see Officer Miller privately.”

Johnstown has a Student Assistance Program where educators help at-risk children.

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