March 27, 2008


Smith students test drug knowledge

Sixth-graders compete in annual Drug Quiz Show Regional Playoffs

Quiz Show

Aimee Milks/staff reporter
Smith Elementary School students, from left, Taylor Thomas, Kelsey Block, Marissa DeFranco and Katie Klinger compete Wednesday against students from Bainbridge Guilford in Chenango County to move on in the next round of the Rite Aid Drug Quiz Show Regional Playoffs. Four teams from the regional playoffs will face off in the state finals in May.

Staff Reporter

SYRACUSE — The students sat anxiously in front of the panel, intently listening to the questions as they gripped their buzzers.
“I hope I get this question,” Tracey Shelley, 12, said later, recalling what was going through his head.
Shelley was one of six Smith Elementary School students to participate Wednesday in the 23rd annual Drug Quiz Show Regional Playoffs at the Crouse Hospital Marley Education Center in Syracuse.
Answering questions about alcohol and drugs, their affects on people, peer pressure and conflict resolution, the group from Smith School was one of 32 teams from elementary schools around the state that fought for a chance to be among four teams to go on to the state finals in May.
Smith School lost in its second game, one game before the matchup for the spot in the state finals. It was an experience sixth-grade teacher and advisor Gail Renninger-Smith was familiar with.
Renninger-Smith said this is the fourth year Smith School has put together a team for the event and the third time a team has made it to the regional finals.
The first year she took a team to the finals, they also lost in the second round of play. The second time a Smith School team made it to the regional finals, they lost in the first round.
Groton Elementary School also competed for Tompkins County but lost by one point in the first round against a team from Bishop Grimes in Syracuse.
To be a member on the team, Renninger-Smith had each interested student sign up on a piece of paper and write a short essay on why he or she wanted to be a part of the Drug Quiz Show.
“She chose the six most well-behaved students,” said 12-year-old Marissa DeFranco, the captain of the team. “I think we’re all very happy to be on the team.”
Renninger-Smith said she selected for the team the students with the highest grades on a test concerning similar topics of drugs and alcohol.
The team included Shelley, DeFranco, Katie Klinger, Kelsey Block, Zachary Curtis and Taylor Thomas.
The team studied every school day, said Klinger, 12, from November to March to prepare for the competition, which began with seven teams from seven different elementary schools in Cortland County.
“We had a schedule set up for when to study and had 15 packets from (competition sponsor) Rite Aid and additional pamphlets of information talking about eating disorders and gambling,” she said.
“We even stayed in at recess every day available to study,” DeFranco added.
There were three rounds of play in each game — a group answer round in which the team had a chance to discuss the answer and report their answers through the captain, a true-false and multiple choice round and a buzzer round.
In the first game, Smith School competed against Bainbridge Guilford in Chenango County, winning 21-20. But moving on to the next game, Smith School faced Mexico Middle School from Oswego County.
Smith School was winning until the buzzer round when the team from Mexico pulled ahead, winning 21-18 and taking the spot to compete for the final four.
“We’ll be very proud of our accomplishments even if we don’t win,” DeFranco said before the game against Mexico.
“And we’ll know we did a good job,” added 11-year-old Kelsey Block. “I think that learning about drugs, alcohol and their effects makes everyone in this group make healthier decisions and never want to do drugs.”
Susan Meidenbauer, a spokeswoman for the Drug Quiz Show, said the event targets students from grades five through eight to learn about drugs and alcohol for a reason.
“Research tells us that this is the age most kids are going to be faced with their first decision (about drugs and alcohol),” she said. “We want to catch them at this age before high school when it might have been too late, and hopefully they’ll make the right decisions in the future.”
Renninger-Smith said when she heard about the quiz show four years ago, she knew it was something she wanted her students to participate in.
“One of my big concerns is that kids need to learn about alcohol and health, so I thought this was a great way to learn,” she said. “I was proud and nervous because they worked so hard. I just wanted them to do their best because they are going to be winners even if they lost.”