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Stand Up to Drugs, Southmoreland Elementary School student urges

| Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Paul Paterra | The Independent-Observer
Amanda Sokol, a fifth-grade student at Southmoreland Elementary School, was named a winner in the Attorney General's 17th annual Drug-Free Calendar Contest.
This is Amanda Sokol's winning entry in the 2014 Drug-Free Calendar Contest.

Artwork done by a Southmoreland Elementary School student was deemed worthy to be included in the Office of the Attorney General's 21014 Drug Free Calendar.

Amanda Sokol, a fifth-grade student at SES, was announced as one of the winners in the 17th annual calendar contest. Sokol is the only winner among the 13 chosen (12 months, plus a grand prize winner on the cover) from Westmoreland, Fayette or Allegheny county. Her work will be displayed on the July page of the calendar.

“My teacher said we could do it,” Sokol said. “I thought of a saying and drew a picture to show what the saying meant. It has an American flag and it has a little girl standing there in camo and (the artwork) said, ‘Stand up to drugs.'”

The girl in the picture is saying “No drugs” to expound on that theme, and Sokol is extremely proud the flag has exactly 13 stripes and 50 stars.

Sokol, 10, was quite excited to be named a winner.

“I was sitting in math class the teacher looked around the room and said, ‘I have good news for one person in here,” Sokol recalled. “I got so scared.”

But when she found out what exactly the news was, “I was proud,” she said.

Sokol got to make a trip to Harrisburg to be recognized for her achievement.

The contest is funded through cash seized by agents of the Attorney General's Bureau of Narcotics Investigations, which represents the profits of drug trafficking organizations.

“Fifth-grade students are at an age when most have been exposed to drugs or alcohol socially, so the goal of our contest is to engage them before they or their friends make a bad choice,” said Attorney General Kathleen Kane. “Agents from my office visit schools and meet with children of all ages year round to educate them about the importance of living a drug-free lifestyle. The drawings and paintings submitted by all of this year's contestants show that the students are paying attention and our message is getting through.”

Winners were chosen from more than 720 entries from 210 schools in 52 counties throughout the Commonwealth. The winners were chosen based on the artists' creativity and ability to illustrate and convey a drug-free message.

John Lee, elementary school principal, was obviously quite proud of Sokol's accomplishment.

“Any time one of our students has the opportunity to be published, whether it be a drug poster or whatever, that's a good thing for us and that's a good thing for her,” Lee said. “It's a matter of getting kids to participate. ... It's a great thing when you get honored at the state level for your work.”

Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or