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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary | The Local Review

Stars Visit School to Speak Out Against Drugs

May 11, 1999

WOODLAND HILLS — Evander Holyfield and Sugar Ray Leonard were among a host of athletes and entertainers participating at Parkman Middle School on Monday in the first Salute to the Children Celebrity Carnival sponsored by DARE America, the anti-drug education program.

Nearly 80% of Parkman students take part in DARE PLUS, an after-school activities program that is available at only 25 schools across the country, according to Glenn Levant, president and founding director of DARE America.

"This is DARE's way of thanking the school for its high participation and its commitment to the program since the start," Levant said.

At Monday's event, children had the opportunity to chat with the celebrities.

"Did it hurt when your ear got bit?" sixth-grader Chris Fuentes, 11, asked heavyweight boxing champion Holyfield.

"Yes," Holyfield said as he grabbed Chris' ear, examining it closely. "Good thing no one bit your ear off."

A joint effort between educators and parents helps keep children off drugs, said Holyfield, the father of nine, adding that he often has frank discussions with his own family about substance abuse.

"I point to people in my own family who did drugs and tell them not to fall into the traps that other people have fallen into," he said.

Many young Latina students screamed when they saw actor Erik Estrada, best known to an older generation for his role as Ponch on the TV show "CHiPs," but more familiar to the middle school audience as the star of "Dos Mujeres un Camino," a soap opera on Spanish-language television.

Other children took advantage of free snow cones, popcorn, soda and other snacks or played on the many carnival games. Some children dyed their hair green and took free instant photos with friends.

"I think kids will stay off drugs because the stars were here and told us not to," said sixth-grader Diana Dunn, 11. "If stars don't do drugs, then kids won't do drugs."

Leonard didn't seem to mind as children rushed to meet him.

"Events like this have a major influence on the stars because we're doing something positive for the kids," said Leonard, a 1976 Olympic boxing gold medalist.

"Telling children not to use drugs is one of the most important things we can do."

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