Andrea Santa Cruz spent 16 years in drug-addicted hell. That turned two of her five kids into TV stars.
Her 13-year-old son, Frankie Santa Cruz, and her 12-year-old daughter, Aerica Santa Cruz, are main characters in this year’s public service announcements on TV for the region’s new anti-drug campaign.
“I feel sorry for the person who encourages any one of us to try some type of drug,” Frankie said to a room full of people who attended the Wednesday news conference to kick off the campaign.
Funded by a $258,000 federal Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, Methamphetamine grant, the campaign is a partnership of the Counter Narcotics Alliance, Tucson police and the Meth Free Alliance.
It includes five PSAs, posters and the message “Choose to Refuse.”
“As soon as you tell a kid ‘No,’ that’s what they want to do,” said Counter Narcotics Alliance Capt. Terry Rozema. “This campaign encourages kids to make wise choices.”
Tucson police Chief Roberto Villaseñor said the only way to tackle the problem is with involvement from everyone.
“We cannot arrest the problem,” he said. “The county attorney cannot prosecute away the problem. Everyone has to work together. The community needs to be part of the process. It’s the epitome of community policing.”
The policing has also hit the Internet, with a Meth Free Alliance page on Facebook.com and peer support groups that will Twitter motivational messages.
Seventh-grader Frankie has been speaking out against drugs for a couple of years and has appeared in past PSAs. Rather than getting ridiculed at school, he gets respected – and even imitated.
“In my school, I’m considered famous,” he said. “They will see the PSA and mimic me.”
He was a natural on stage, likening addiction to a monster full of empty souls.
It’s a monster both his mother and father knew well.
“He was pretty straight-laced when I met him,” Andrea Santa Cruz, 38, said of her husband. But meth, and other drugs, took care of that.
The couple, who still are married, spiraled downward until there was nowhere to go but up.
She hit bottom with her mom dying in January 2003 and Child Protective Services taking her children five months later.
“I was lost. My heart felt empty,” she said. “I just lost six of the most important people in my life.”
Her husband, too, entered a program and moved out of state until both were more stable in their recovery.
Major changes came with getting clean, she said. The couple got their five kids back.
Instead of fearing CPS, Santa Cruz now works for the agency.
She also staffs the phones for the Meth Free Alliance, tells her story whenever it will help and appears in public service spots from a previous campaign.
She’s recognized on the street.
“People have come up to me and said, ‘Because of you being so bold, my daughter has been clean for three months.’ ”
She also recalled how fellow motorists will pull their cars up to hers and give her a hearty thumbs up.
Rozema, of the Counter Narcotics Alliance, has had a different experience with motorists.
“I never had people pull up to me and give me the thumbs up,” he said. “It’s always a different finger.”
On the Web
Meth Free Alliance:
• Phone: 388-4711
• Also see its Facebook page: