ANAHEIM : For Students, Flying High Is Their Reward

Scott Haggert and Chris Miller of Esperanza High School went off campus for lunch Friday. Way off campus.

The two boys flew in a four-seat Cessna plane to Big Bear for the day as part of the school's "Get High on Life Program," which rewards youths for staying off drugs.

And since the plane had dual controls, the students had a chance to actually fly the plane for a short time.

Haggert, a senior, said he had been in a small plane before but never had had the opportunity to sit at the controls.

"Of course, my friends were jealous," he said. "But they support me. They know my beliefs."

Miller, a freshman, said he never thought he would win the opportunity to fly in the plane. "I just filled (the pledge card) out. None of my friends did, but I thought it was a good idea. They probably wish they did now."

Timed to coincide with Red Ribbon Week, students were encouraged to sign cards pledging their belief in, and support of, a drug-free school and society. The two students were then selected at a pep rally to take the plane trip.

Through an arrangement with Liberty Aviation Services of Fullerton and the high school, students receive recognition and free flight lessons for campus involvement. Jac Nelson, president of the aviation company, said opportunities to give students alternatives to drugs through programs like this are arare and worth the effort. For the school, the program is a "visible incentive" to stay drug-free, said Vice Principal Mark Jackson, who presented the program to Nelson. "It's an attempt to recognize those kids that have said they really want to make a difference."

For the students, the results are as obvious as the excitement in their voices.

"One friend said I was the luckiest guy in the world," Haggert said.

A member of Peer Support, a campus counseling group, Haggert works locally with junior high and elementary school youth, educating them about staying off drugs.

Peer Support also provides support for new students or students who are "just having a hard time fitting in," Haggert said.

"I might talk with them, have lunch or just sit with them at an assembly."

Peer Support members have been rewarded with flight lessons as a motivational bonus, Jackson said, but this is the first time the school has done anything that involves the whole campus.

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