Students learn importance of being drug free


PRUNTYTOWN—Every 11 minutes someone in the United States overdoses on opioids; 128 people a day fall victim to their addiction. This is a statistic that Taylor County Middle School (TCMS)  will be focusing on as they recognize Red Ribbon Week.

Nationally held, Red Ribbon Week urges students to be aware of and help prevent issues surrounding alcohol, tobacco and drug use. The campaign also helps bring awareness of violence prevention. 

The Red Ribbon Campaign began in 1985 when the National Family Partnership, formerly the National Federation of Parents for Drug Free Youth, pushed for a way to bring drug use and abuse awareness to children. 

Since its inception, Red Ribbon Week has touched the lives of millions of people around the world. Today, the week serves as a stimulus to move communities to educate youth and encourage participation in drug prevention activities. 

To uphold the suggestion that the country’s youth be educated on the consequences and harm that occurs with drug use, TCMS Counselor Renee Mahon creates special programs for her students each year, and this year, she is focusing in on just how many people are lost as a result of opioid addiction each day.

She shared that last year, with the help of officials from the Grafton Police Department, she was able to pull a student out of class every 11 minutes for a visualization of the statistic. However, due to COVID-19 Mahon was unable to recreate it for this year, but still was able to come up with an idea to represent the fact.

“It is a scary statistic. To think about losing someone every 11 minutes to something that could very much be preventable is heartbreaking,” Mahon expressed. “I think this is a fact that will really impact our students and the way they view the issue. So I wanted to represent that.”

To do so, she has purchased 128 t-shirts, from Black Bear Customs that don the phrase “every 11 minutes” to display in the school beginning on Monday, February 22.

In addition to the shirt display, Mahon has garnered the assistance of local law enforcement and emergency services for the project.

The Grafton Fire Department, Westover Police Department, Fairmont Police Department, Kingwood Police Department and Healthnet Aero Medical Services, along with a few other entities will be creating videos for Mahon to share with students. These videos will highlight the dangers, consequences and harmful effects drug and alcohol abuse can have on individuals and their families.

The Marion County Sheriff’s Department will also be submitting messages to the students about the dangers of drug abuse for Mahon to use with her display.

“This is an important matter to discuss with our children. It seems young, but the reality is that it is necessary. We as a school are going to do everything in our power to keep our students from ever being part of that 128,” voiced Mahon.

And she declared that this year, her concern for her students is at an all-time high. 

Because the COVID-19 pandemic has forced them out of school, students are spending more time at home than they are in an educational setting, and the stress and anxieties of the virtual work could lead some to turn to drugs or alcohol.

 As a reactive measure, Mahon said she has been exploring healthy coping strategies with students, teaching them positive ways to balance their mental feelings.

“I was sure to get help from a lot of local experts this year. These law enforcement officers have witnessed drug abuse and its consequences first-hand. They are the best ones to be sharing insight,” she added.

Once the week has wrapped up, Mahon informed that all 128 of the shirts used for the display will be donated to the agencies that assisted with her program this year. 

Additionally, to engage the students even further, students are asked to wear their favorite team clothing on Monday and Thursday for “Team Up Against Drugs” day, and on Tuesday and Friday to wear TCMS colors to show “Our School Is Drug Free”.

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