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They’re CHAMPS: Long 5th-graders finish program
CHAMPS program 1
Long County Sheriff Craig Nobles and Atlantic Judicial Circuit District Attorney Billy Joe Nelson hand out certificates to McClelland Elementary School fifth graders Wednesday as the students completed the CHAMPS program. Photos by Pat Donahue

LUDOWICI — More than 300 McClelland Elementary School fifth-graders, all clad in their CHAMPS T-shirts, received their certificates Wednesday morning for completing the CHAMPS program.

CHAMPS stands for Choosing Healthy Activities Promoting Safety and it is brought into the schools by the Long County Sheriff ’s Office and Sheriff Craig Nobles. The program covers 10 weeks of instruction for topics such as internet safety and bullying and the effects such habits as drinking and smoking have.

Atlantic Judicial Circuit District Attorney Billy Joe Nelson admitted Wednesday’s crowd was larger than he is used to addressing. A former Long County state court solicitor, Nelson said Long is near and dear to his heart.

“Half of family is from Long County,” he said. “I’ve still got a lot of family that lives here.”

As Atlantic Judicial Circuit DA, Nelson is the chief prosecutor for six counties — Bryan, Evans, Liberty, Long, McIntosh and Tattnall. Nelson said his talk Wednesday is the kind he likes to give.

“We’ve got young people we can steer in the right direction,” he said. “By the time we see them in the court, they’re already going down that road. I think the CHAMPS program is the perfect model to keep you from going down that road.”

Nelson said he deals with someone’s choices in the courtroom every day.

“Good choices are going to have good consequences; bad choices are going to have bad consequences,” he said.

Nelson also said he stresses leadership, work ethic and accountability.

“You don’t get anywhere in life unless you work hard,” he said.

Nelson cited University of Georgia football coach Kirby Smart in discussing accountability. He recalled Smart’s view of a player who has created a problem and if the first words that player says are “Coach, it’s not my fault,” then that’s a player he can’t depend on.

“That’s what accountability is about — it’s about accepting responsibility for your choices and accepting responsibility for your actions,” Nelson said.

Nobles also urged the students to ride four-wheelers safely and to take heed of safety when swimming, cautioning them to not dive into a swimming pool head-first.

“Jump into a pool feet first. You’ll get just as wet,” he said.

Nobles also warned parents to monitor what their children are surfing on the internet.

“We see it time and time again, and sometimes it leads to arrests of young people,” he said.

The sheriff also thanked the Long County Board of Education for allowing law enforcement to have positive encounters with students, such as the CHAMPS program.

Wednesday’s assembly was the first the Long County CHAMPS students have had since the start of the COVID-19 program.

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