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Latrobe district 1st-grader wins national photo contest in drug prevention campaign

| Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
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Brianna Hoffer, 6, a first-grader at Baggaley Elementary School in the Greater Latrobe School District, poses in front of the door of her home. Her entry took first place in Region 3 of the 2013 National Red Ribbon Photo Contest.

During afternoon announcements one December day at Baggaley Elementary School, first-grader Brianna Hoffer was stunned to hear her name.

“It was the cutest face. Her mouth was open, and she was completely shocked,” said her mother, Janet Hoffer, who saw the event unfold in a recorded video.

The 6-year-old girl was among 10 families throughout the country chosen as a National Red Ribbon Photo Contest winner by the National Family Partnership, which directs Red Ribbon Week, the nation's largest drug prevention campaign.

The whole family, including dad Brian Hoffer, decorated the door of their Unity home in October using the Red Ribbon Week theme “A Healthy Me Is Drug Free,” then submitted the photo for online voting.

“We put lights and ribbon around our door and made it festive,” recalled Janet Hoffer.

Greater Latrobe School District posted a link on its website to boost votes for the Hoffer family in the contest, which lasted from Nov. 6 to 19.

The family was not sure how many votes their decorations had received, Hoffer said, except that participants were allowed to vote up to 10 times per day, and they encouraged all their friends, family and co-workers to vote in addition to the word spread by the district.

“We had no clue; it came as a surprise,” she said.

As one of the winners, Brianna was awarded an iPad for her family and a $1,000 drug prevention grant for her school.

“It was a family-driven activity that the partnership wanted, so it was a family reward, but she'll use it most of anybody,” her mother said.

Brianna was presented with the award by principal Kimberly Hrezo and a special agent from the Drug Enforcement Administration at the end of the Christmas program in front of the whole student body.

“I learned about making healthy choices,” said Brianna, adding that she was happy to be chosen, and it was “the best time I ever had.”

Janet Hoffer first heard about the contest through her work as prevention coordinator with the Westmoreland County Drug and Alcohol Commission.

She said she talks to her daughter about making healthy choices and doing the right thing.

Students need to know that their parents are a source of open communication, she believes.

“Peer pressure is huge for the kids and a struggle they face every day,” Hoffer said.

Brianna can serve as a role model for her peers, Hrezo said.

“Drug prevention is so important because there's so much drug use around, and we need to be proactive now to make sure our children know how to make good decisions,” Hrezo said. “We want them to lead a healthy lifestyle, so they can go far.”

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or sfederoff@tribweb.com.

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