ST. MARYS — Featuring presentations by local emergency responders and dramatic performances, the anti-drug ‘Reality Tour’ is currently being produced for St. Marys Area Middle School students and their parents.

Developed by the Butler-based CANDLE, Inc., the program is intended to show students what drug addiction looks like up-close.

Participating in the dramatic sketches are students belonging to St. Marys’ drama club, as well as local safety officials. Held in the middle school, the program consists of a tour through sets depicting a police station, a hospital and a funeral home and presentations on drug trends and drug safety.

Principal Dan Volmer said the tour is one of several ways the school tries to educate younger students about drugs.

“It’s not our only attempt,” Volmer said. “We also do DARE in the fall with the city police, and drugs are covered in the health curriculum.”

Vollmer said the program can be produced for any age level, but that it is intended for children in grades six or above. Elk County Catholic School students have been invited to attend as well.

The final production of the tour at St. Marys takes place on Tuesday night. Volmer said that while the dramatizations can be intense and emotional, the intent of the program is not to frighten.

Fran Morelli, of Brockway, has helped to produce versions of the tour in DuBois and in Brockway for the past four years, and said it takes a proactive approach to drug education. By including voices of local authorities and lessons on an opioid epidemic touches many communities, Morelli said the program makes for a more personal conversation on drugs.

“It’s a powerful tour that just gives a real-life experience of an addict that’s going down the wrong road,” Morelli said.

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