We usually begin our Saturday ritual by handing out bouquets or single roses to community heroes. Today, it’s different.

Buckets of raspberries to those who aid and abet underage boys and girls by agreeing to buy alcoholic beverages for minors.

Buying booze for minors is against the law, and for good reason, which we will get to in a moment.

The Santa Maria Police Department’s latest “shoulder tap” operation, part of a statewide effort, nabbed three adults who, after being tapped on the shoulder by an undercover operative, agreed to buy alcoholic beverages for minors.

Scofflaws can howl about entrapment, but the fact is such operations can and do save lives. For one thing, national statistics show teens have a higher rate of drunk-driving crashes than adults. Every community in America has felt the horror of a teen-involved crash with multiple fatalities, and in too many cases, drivers of those vehicles were impaired by the use of alcoholic beverages.

Buying booze for teens may seem like the friendly thing to do, but it most definitely is not.

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Enough with the raspberries. We don’t like to hand them out, much preferring the rose-giving ceremony, the latest of which involves the Solvang School District for its emphasis on STEM programs.

STEM is the latest acronym waving across American academics. It stands for instruction in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. And the Solvang School District stands out.

The district was designated a Project Lead The Way Distinguished District for providing broad access to transformative learning opportunities for students, one of just 21 districts across the nation to receive such an honor.

It’s all part of the national Project Lead The Way program, the goal of which is to provide transformative learning opportunities from preschool through the 12th grade. The ultimate objective is to give kids hands-on experience in a wide range of disciplines, giving them the knowledge and skills necessary for a lifelong career.

In other words, giving today’s youngsters the tools they’ll need for the next century’s biggest challenges. As students go up through the grades, they are empowered to engage in problem-solving and logical thinking, develop technical knowledge and skills, build communication skills and explore career opportunities.

A spaceship full of roses for any school district that will aim that high.

***

Imagine strolling in your neighborhood, a car on the street backfires, and you are right back in the Army Humvee involved in a roadside attack in Iraq or Afghanistan, improvised explosive devices shredding metal and lives.

It’s a nightmare that will not stop for many American military veterans who survived the war but not the damage that comes with combat in a foreign land.

It’s called post-traumatic stress disorder, and it haunts tens of thousands of veterans, any one of whom can be dragged back into the terrors of combat, even in the safety of their hometown.

A nonprofit based in San Luis Obispo, New Life K9s, is providing some relief for our veterans, offering service dogs to ex-military and first responders with PTSD. The service dogs are trained to help these survivors cope.

New Life K9s has placed 10 dogs in the past five years with veterans with PTSD. The organization has nearly two dozen dogs being trained at the California Men's Colony prison in San Luis Obispo and Correctional Training Facility in Soledad.

If you are a veteran who has the recurring nightmares of combat, or you know someone like that, you can apply for a service dog by visiting www.newlifek9s.org.

And expect some roses.

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