CENTRAL ARIZONA COLLEGE - In 1990, then Pinal County Attorney Gilbert Figueroa began a small art contest in local schools to find out who could draw the best anti-drug message. The contest was named in memory of former Pinal County Superior Court Judge Robert R. Bean who had recently succumbed to cancer.
The best pictures were placed in a month-to-month calendar with the 12 best drawings featured. The idea was to have children show their peers the dangers of drug use.
Seventeen years later, the tradition continues, albeit with some minor modifications to the original month-to-month calendar format.
On Thursday, December 13, County Attorney James P. Walsh kept the contest alive and well by honoring finalists, their families and teachers at a ceremony to unveil the poster-sized 2008 Anti-Drug Calendar poster.
"This contest is open to all sixth graders in Pinal County," the County Attorney said. "Over 500 entries were received and a panel of judges narrowed the field to 60 finalists. Once those were chosen the real work began since all the artwork was very impressive."
Walsh said that the panel of nine judges culled the 60 finalists to 9 winners with a grand prize winner, a T-shirt winner and a Tattoo winner. T-shirts featuring the anti-drug message and temporary tattoos will help spread the anti-drug message among impressionable young people.
"I'm glad I wasn't a member of the judging panel," County Attorney Walsh joked. "It was a difficult decision."
Speaking before a group of student finalists and their parents in Central Arizona College's Pence Auditorium, Walsh congratulated those who made the final cut.
"Your work will be there for all to see," stressed Walsh. "Your art may give one of your friends the courage to say 'no' to drugs. As Alexa from Thunder Mountain Middle School says on her drawing: With drugs the only winners are losers. Well, none of you are losers."
The guest speaker of the night was State Senator Rebecca Rios (D-District 23). With two young children of her own, Senator Rios says she understands the stresses the students face each day at school and with their friends. She related a story about a family member who passed away at a very young age by "huffing" drugs. Rios told the students that one action resulted in a death that changed their family forever.
Senator Rios also brought up a childhood experience where she won a contest in school with a drawing of a Christmas tree.
Looking at the students, Rios said "What you are doing here is very significant. What I did was draw a Christmas tree. You are doing something much more profound. I urge you to continue to share your anti-drug message."
The nine students whose artwork is on the 2008 design were photographed with County Attorney Walsh at the McFarland Courthouse and State Park in Florence. The group photo is in the center of the poster with the winning drawings arranged around the photograph. Walsh said 12,000 posters were made and will be distributed to Pinal County schools and businesses.
This year's grand prize winner was John Bribiescas, a sixth grader from Mammoth Elementary School. Bribiescas' art teacher, Valerie Rickert, received a check for $500.00 for classroom supplies. Second place went to Alvaro Alvarez from Mammoth Elementary School and third place went to Isaiah O. Iguado from Red Rock Elementary School. All nine artists whose drawings appear on the 2008 calendar will be treated to a field trip to the Challenger Space Center at the Tucson Air and Space Museum, along with their classmates.