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Cowboy up!

Children learn about positive choices in school assembly

by: MICHELLE BERTALOT/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Janie Rauch recently visited Ochoco Elementary School and spoke to students about the American flag and making good choices.

You don't have to be a man to be a cowboy and Jamie Rauch is living proof of that.
   Last week little buckaroos at Crooked River, Ochoco, Paulina, and Powell Butte schools dressed in their best Western attire for a presentation from the third-generation rodeo competitor. Rauch is also the Northwest representative for Cowboys & Kids REACh (Rodeo Education And Children) program.
   "We are kind of like DARE, but with cowboy flair," Rauch described the program.
   Using the phrase "Cowboy up" Crook County students learned how to use the phrase to say no to drugs. Program officials explain the term "Cowboy up" is used in rodeo arenas to encourage riders.
   "I hope they remember those two words we use in the rodeo arena and are able to use them in their own lives," Rauch said.
   The assembly uses "cowboy values" to promote good character, which Rauch believes deters students from joining gangs, or doing drugs.
   "Having good character means they will probably make good choices," Rauch said.
   She admitted although narcotics and gangs are not a problem in Prineville, things like smokeless tobacco and smoking are more of a problem in rural areas.
   "I just want them to realize how important their choices are," she said.
   Recently the program was sponsored by the Columbia River Circuit Finals rodeo that was held last weekend at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds. Every student who attended the assemblies got a free ticket for their admission to Sunday's rodeo events.
   The assemblies teach the students about patriotism, Western heritage, rodeos, and the cowboy lifestyle.
   A big part of the organization's agenda is teaching ethics. At the assembly, Rauch stressed the importance of the flag's stars, stripes, and the national anthem.
   "Do you know what these mean?" Rauch asked, pointing at the stars on the flag.
   Almost all of the Ochoco students' hands shot up. She called on a boy who answered "the states," to which he was rewarded with a small Crunch bar.
   The program was started 15 years ago and she has been with the program since 2000. Rauch travels to Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Wyoming for shows annually.
   "We present to about 30,000 kids each year," she said.
   Students in Redmond and Jefferson County schools also were scheduled to enjoy the assemblies.