Laconia high schoolers attend opioid summit for students in Lowell, Mass.


LACONIA — When 36 Laconia High School students representing all grades headed on to a bus to the Tsongas Arena in Lowell for a youth opioid awareness summit last week, most of them didn't know what to expect.

Sponsored by Stand Up Laconia, what they got was a full day of music and entertainment from some of Boston's top DJs and bands along with a short movie, "If Only" produced by Jim Wahlberg, brother of musician-turned-actor Mark Wahlberg or Marky Mark of the Funky Bunch, said LHS/LMS Curriculum Coordinator Angel Burke.

They also saw first hand hand how opioid addiction can kill them. They heard from athletes, including two former members of the New England Patriots, who spoke about how an opioid addiction can stem from something as innocuous as an injury sustained during  high school athletics.

But the part that impressed the Laconia students the most was when 50 parents took the stage and held pictures of their teenagers who had died from opioid overdoses.

Many were also impressed by how quickly some people can get addicted to opioids.

During a quick debriefing of some of the students, many said that the "pills party" pictured in the movie wasn't necessarily representative of their own experiences.

Prevention, Education and Training Officer Eric Adams said the students in Laconia are likely correct in that assumption. He said "pill parties" were more common two to four years ago, but that many parents have heard the message and are destroying pills they don't use and better protecting the ones they do.

Adams said that these days, the usual path to opioids begins with marijuana, which kids in the latest Yearly Risk Behavior Survey perceived as very low risk and then graduate to other drugs like cocaine, opioids and methamphetamine. 

"Kids do perceive of opioids as being dangerous," Adams said, referring again to the study.

"But like up here," said one young man, "It's a heroin problem. They talked about pills that lead to heroin use."

Many felt that their parents could benefit by seeing "If Only" which is a short film about how one parent learns her son has tested positive for opioids and marijuana and tries to tell the mother of her son's best friend, who refused to listen to her.

In a private interview with a senior, he said he's bored in the winter in the Lakes Region. He said some sports are very expensive, like skiing and hockey," and most of his free time is spent "hanging out with his friends" where he says there is plenty of peer pressure to try drugs including alcohol, cigarettes and vapes.

He said he was glad he attended the opioid summit but when asked if younger kids, like middle schoolers, could benefit from it, he said they were too young.

"I saw a lot of them there (from other schools) and they were mostly giggling and not paying attention," he said.

A freshman girl with a relative who is in recovery agreed that it was not compelling enough to hold the attention of middle schoolers.

She also said that she thought the program was going to be much more geared toward heroin and cocaine, and not pills, which was not her experience.

As for what both felt that the city of Laconia could do for adolescents, both said there needs to be a place where they can "hang out" and visit with their friends, especially in the winter. They said something not as structured as the Community Center, which focuses on teams and sports but also not something like the Boys and Girls Clubs, which they both said they were too old for. Both said they like the beaches and the skate parks in the summer but there was no place in the cold months.

"Maybe the city could do a teen night, once a month or something," said the girl. She said she is aware that many churches sponsor these events but said many of the kids she knows in high school aren't very religious.

Both thought the opioid summit was inspiring, especially the part about where the mothers held up pictures of their dead children.

Both also said their parents could benefit from seeing the movie, "If Only."

Back in class, Stand Up Sachems, in conjunction with Stand Up Laconia, along with Burke and Drug and Alcohol Counselor Jessica Conrad planned for more community events like a parent reach-out night, teen dances and the recent Empty Bowls event.

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These students from Stand Up Sachems at Laconia High School attended an opioid awareness summit in Massachusetts on Dec. 6. (Courtesy photo)

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Clare Persson, right, and Solary Chhun, foreground, enjoyed the summit. Behind them are, from right: Destiny Jones, Jeremy Connolly, Gabbie D'jovnik, Riley Roy, Steve Towers and Jake Filgate. (Courtesy photo)



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Mystique Mora, left, and Brooke D'Amato attended the event. (Courtesy photo)

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Jury deadlocked on Gilford rape trial


LACONIA — The jury remains deadlocked in the trial of a Gilford man who is accused of raping his former girlfriend in front of their 3-year-old daughter last January.

Opening arguments in the case against Carroll Thompson, 45, began Dec. 6 and testimony ended on Friday afternoon after Thompson took the stand in his own defense.

The state claims that Thompson forcibly raped his ex-girlfriend after she threatened to leave him and take their child. The defense claims that the two had consensual sex earlier in the day and the alleged victim cried rape later that day to prevent him from gaining custody of their child.

After closing arguments Monday morning, the jury retired to deliberate. About mid-afternoon, they told Judge James O'Neill they were deadlocked.

O'Neill told jurors that if the majority of them is for a conviction, then the others should reconsider if their doubt is a reasonable one. On the other hand, if a majority are in favor of acquittal, then the rest of the jurors should reconsider the reasons why their fellow jurors are not convinced that the state has proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Should the jury remain deadlocked, a mistrial will be declared. After 30 days, both the prosecution and the defense teams are allowed to reach out to individual jurors to determine what the overall sentiment of the jury was and why, in their opinion, they were unable to come to a unanimous conclusion.
Individual jurors are under no obligation to talk to them.

This information is typically used by both sides to determine if the case should be tried again and, if so, whether or not there is solution preferable to a new trial.

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Plan to enhance Swasey Park presented


MEREDITH — Selectmen recently got a glimpse of plans to improve and enhance Swasey Park, a patch of land that more than most can lay claim to being the cradle of Meredith.

Swasey Park, 7.9 acres of sloping woodland on the southeast east bank of the canal leading from Lake Waukewan through Mill Falls to Lake Winnipesaukee, is a reminder of where and how Meredith grew from a rude settlement to a thriving town.

Soon after the dawn of the 19th century, John Bond Swasey, whose father, Benjamin, came to Meredith in the 1770s, began purchasing landed property and water rights along Measly Pond Brook that flowed from Lake Waukewan to Lake Winnipesaukee. By 1818 he had completed construction of a 600-foot canal, which with a 40-drop at Mill Falls provided power that soon drove sawmills, grist mills and cotton mills and ultimately even the Meredith Electric Light Company that lit the town in 1895. In 1974, Swasey's descendants donated a portion of the land remaining in the family to the town, and two years later the park was dedicated.

This spring the design committee of the Greater Meredith Program, chaired by architect Chris Williams, sponsored two charities, led by Paul Eldridge and including historian Mae Williams and Rick Van de Poll of Ecosystems Management Consultants, to develop a conceptual plan for the park.

Williams and Eldridge told the selectmen that while there is agreement that the park should be kept as a natural space and branded as a "natural" park, pathways, benches and signs should be added, along with a spot to land and launch kayaks and canoes. There would be no trash cans, but instead a "carry in/carry out" policy. It was suggested that a boardwalk might be built to reach Turtle Rock, one of the landmarks of the park, and that the park could be added as a destination on the Meredith Sculpture Walk

Williams told the board that the charities are a starting point toward the development of a final plan. He said schools, businesses and civic groups should be engaged to assist with the project. While the cost of the project remains to determined, he said that a number of public and private sources of funding should begin to be explored.

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Swasey Park, marked in green, may soon see some improvements. (Graphic courtesy of Google Maps)

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