Teenagers Work Together to Fight Substance Abuse in Schools

By: Olivia Fecteau Email
By: Olivia Fecteau Email

CABELL COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Cabell County teenagers are working together to figure out a solution to the prescription drug abuse that has found its way into local schools.

150 students from five middle schools and two high schools attended the Third Annual Cabell County Teen Summit on Thursday at Marshall University. The students went to workshops where they worked on improving their leadership skills and talked about the peer pressure that causes kids to cave in when it comes to alcohol and substance abuse.

While the summit has focused on drug and alcohol prevention in the past, the majority of that focus was on drugs like marijuana. This year, the topics have been a little different.

"This year I've noticed we've really gotten into other things, like self-harm and premature sex and other things that should not be practiced at this age," Cassi Hall, a sophomore at Huntington High School, said.

Michelle Perdue, the project coordinator of the Teen Summit and head of the Cabell County Substance Abuse Prevention Partnership (CCSAPP), said prescription drugs have worked their way into the hands of students.

"They think it's safe because it's prescribed by a doctor," Perdue said. "Just because it's legal doesn't mean it's safe."

But a message about safety and avoiding peer pressure isn't always welcome when it comes from an adult. That's where the teens come in and why they hope to reach their own classmates and friends -- for the sake of everyone in the community.

"How are we able to bring more kids into the community when we can't fix the teenagers?" Joseph Keith, a junior at Huntington High School, said.

Fixing the problems can be simple, according to Hall.

"One of the biggest things is just being a shoulder to cry on or someone to talk to," Hall said. "Someone to be there to give you the facts on what you need to do to get out of what you're in, or what could happen if you continue down the path that you're on."

Hall said she has been able to reach out to some of her friends that she met through school, in health class, who have gotten mixed up with the wrong crowd or activity.

"People can get back to where they started and back to la happier place," Hall said. "Grades can go back up and life can get better again."

Local leaders in Huntington and community organizations have been supportive of the Teen Summit, Perdue said. Huntington Mayor Steve Williams stopped by to speak to the students Thursday.

The students are hoping to take what they learn at the summit back to school with them, in order to create positive changes.

"They have the power," Perdue said. "They are going to be the leaders."

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