ONTARIO — “I think, right now, we’re losing. I think it’s the worst time in America’s history for drug abuse.”
This was among the closing remarks from Ontario Chief of Police Steven Romero on Tuesday night at his Drug Prevention and Education Seminar at Ontario High School.
Romero, who came to Ontario this summer, was previously in California and worked on task force to fight major drug-related problems in the greater Los Angeles area. He was able to give some of his insight on the topic of drug use and prevention among the youth.
Tom Elizondo, who has been working with Ontario School District for 24 years, led the presentation on drug products that have been common at the schools in recent years. Elizondo showed parents how to look at packaging to see if something is harmless or it’s a vape pen/cartridge or THC-laced food products or candies.
Ontario High School Principal Jodi Elizondo, also in attendance, said it’s important to know that most THC-laced food products look, smell and taste the same as their non-THC-laced counterparts so the best way to avoid those things is to make sure that you’re not taking food products from people you don’t fully trust.
When asked about making sure children’s candy gathered during Halloween isn’t laced with THC or other drugs, Romero said it’s important to check the candy is both sealed and is a product that you recognize.
On top of information on what to look out for with children, part of Romero’s presentation on Tuesday was reminding parents of how important their role is in a child’s development.
After the presentation on drugs, Romero posed a question to the audience: “Who is responsible for prevention and a child’s success in life?”
The crowd quickly responded with “the parents.”
Romero said it’s important to be an involved parent, showing a child that you care. He mapped out his eight points that he believes will lead to successful parenting, and showed the audience a breakdown of him and his wife’s individual responsibilities as parents for their five kids.
Romero said he understands that his ideals for what makes great parenting isn’t a catch-all.
“One of the biggest life lessons I’ve had is having kids,” Romero said. “And now I’m helping my oldest son raise my two grandkids.”
After the 5:30 p.m. class ended, a second group filed into the Ontario High School gym as Romero prepared to host the seminar a second time. Only the second seminar was in Spanish.
Ontario High School Parent Involvement Coordinator Angela Salazar said she has been bombarded with calls over the last week about how excited people were to have a drug prevention seminar.
“They were all so excited when they heard that this was coming,” Salazar said.
In years past, if Ontario School District were to hold a Spanish seminar like this, it would have to be done through a translator, which Salazar said makes it more difficult to connect with the attendees.
“We just all knew right away that he would do it so much better,” Salazar said. “He’s such a great asset to have for the students and the families.”
On top of speaking Spanish, Romero also comes from a migrant family. While he was born in California, Romero’s parents came to the United States from Mexico. His two oldest siblings were both in Mexico, too. Romero said his parents worked on farms and mowed lawns for money as he grew up in “the worst part” of Hawthorne, California.
Salazar, who works with the Ontario School District Migrant Education Program, said Romero is someone that the students can find much more relatable.
According to Ontario School District Public Relations and Communications Coordinator Taryn Smith, the 2018-19 school year data shows that Ontario School District is 62 percent Hispanic/Latino with 21 percent of all students being categorized as English Language Learners (of those students, there are 17 non-English languages they speak).
“He’s been to the schools and the kids know, he shares the same stories that they do,” Salazar said. “And they know that he’s a person not to be afraid of.”