From kindergarten to 12th grade, Carroll students are persuading their peers to "say no to drugs" and bombarding Gov. William Donald Schaefer with ideas to combat substance abuse.

Four students were selected as county age-group winners in the "Maryland You Are Beautiful" student literacy writing competition.


Top honors went to Blair Mersinger, a Hampstead Elementary first-grader; Anna Hill, a fifth-grader at Robert Moton Elementary; HeatherHopple, an eighth-grader at Mount Airy Middle; and Todd Dickensheets, who is in the 10th grade at Westminster High.

With the encouragement of their teachers, 1,422 county students participated in the contest. Sixteen of Carroll's 30 schools picked 23 winners, which were forwarded to Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Brian L. Lockard.The winners were determined by Dorothy D. Mangle, county director ofelementary education; Peter B. McDowell, director of secondary education; and Lockard.


"It's always difficult to choose one that is best from many good entries," Lockard said.

The drug-abuse prevention theme gave pupils in four age groups -- kindergarten through secondgrade and grades 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12 -- the opportunity to suggest ways to encourage drug-free behavior. Entries were rated on content, organization, choice of words and mechanics.

The K-2 group was asked to explain to classmates the difference between "good" and "bad" drugs. Blair Mersinger, 7, daughter of Dolly and Duston Mersinger of Hampstead, wrote, "Bad drugs can make you sick or kill you. Good drugs can make you healthy and save your life."

Grades 3-5 wrote letters to the governor suggesting ideas for a commercial to convince studentsto say no to drugs. Anna Hill, 11, daughter of Paul and Suzanne Hillof Westminster, presented a scenario of people drinking and taking drugs. It switched to a graveyard at night with the message, "This will be your home."

Middle-schoolers wrote to explain how people might solve the drug problem in their community.

Heather Hopple, 14, daughter of Glenn and Debbie Hopple of Mount Airy, suggested setting up free rehabilitation clinics in recreation centers or churches, helpful programs in schools and local peer programs where rehabilitation counselors could talk to people.

High-schoolers wrote essays persuading classmates how they can help prevent drug abuse.

Todd Dickensheets, 16, son of Richard and JoAnn Dickensheets of Westminster, told his peers about the horrors of drug abuse and of a simulated crackhouse in Baltimore. He'd like to see young people participate in establishing one in every county, work together to run it and encourage others to see it.


Lockard said Carroll's four top writers will be recognized at a meeting of the Board of Education later this spring or in the fall.

The four county winners' entries will be forwarded to the Maryland State Department of Education for a final judging by state educators. First- , second- , and third-place state winners will be honored at a May luncheon with Schaefer and state School Superintendent Joseph L. Shilling.

State first-place winners receive a trophy, a weekend stay in Annapolis, an overnight stay and passes to Kings Dominion amusement park in Virginia and a Kings Dominion surprisepacket.

Second- and third-place winners get a trophy, Kings Dominion passes and surprise packet.

Each county school system winner receives a notebook. All entrants are given four Kings Dominion discount coupons.