MONTOURSVILLE -- Before meeting 12-year-old Xena Santiago, Newswatch 16 knew she had won an award in Harrisburg and had met the attorney general because of her artwork. Once we began to talk with Xena, we found out her drawing had a story to tell all its own.
"Yes, there's pictures, but the pictures show feeling and you can tell that there's feeling behind it," said Xena Santiago.
She may not know it, but when Xena Santiago draws, she's telling a story.
"Just a picture of a normal girl then she decides to do, well, I chose heroin. She decides to do heroin,” said Santiago.
The fifth-grader at McCall Middle School in Montoursville drew this picture hoping it would end up in the Pennsylvania attorney general's annual drug-free calendar. Hundreds of pictures were sent in by fifth-graders. Xena's picture is one of 13 chosen.
"Like she said, 'Congratulations Xena,' and I stood up and said, 'Oh, my gosh. I did something cool," said Xena.
Xena did do something cool and her teacher thinks her picture stands out.
"Rather than unicorns flying in the air and sunshine and roses all of the time, she said this is your average life and you can make decisions that aren't good and this is the way your life can end up if you do that,” said Xena's teacher Stephanie Beadle.
When the attorney general's office chose Xena's picture, they had no idea that Xena has been personally affected by drug abuse. Xena's mother was at one point addicted to drugs. She was the inspiration for the picture.
"I kind of learned from my mom because I know good people can always do bad things even if it's from an accident," said Xena.
Xena's mom Jennifer Stugart has been drug-free for about a year after a nearly eight-year drug addiction that started with prescription drugs.
"You have to give them the reality of it. Just saying, 'Don't do drugs' or 'Say no' isn't really effective,” said Jennifer Stugart.
Jennifer was at the state Capitol when Xena got her awards.
"I'm trying to do the best by her and to at least teach her from my mistakes," Stugart said.
"A lot of stuff has happened in my life and I'm really proud of my mom because she has always stayed strong and she never backs down to anyone she always knows what's right she always sticks to what she knows."
Xena also met the attorney general on Monday and won a TV. The budding artist says she hopes to continue drawing and eventually would like to do it for a living. It's a hobby her mother is definitely proud of.