By: Terry Harris | Email: Click Here
Posted: October 30, 2018 | 3:45 p.m.
A group of young people in Surry County is making a huge difference in their community as they step up to help lead the fight against drugs and alcohol. Giving of their time, energy, and resources, the Youth Council has been honing their leadership skills for some time now toward that effort and during the national “Red Ribbon Drug Prevention Awareness” running October 23-31, they are sponsoring “Go Red Day” on Thursday at all the local schools to publicize the program.
Sophenia Pierce, director of the sponsoring Surry Department of Youth and Family Resources recently explained the event, saying, “As part of this annual awareness campaign, students and adults in the schools as well as the community are encouraged to wear red to represent their pledge to be drug/alcohol abuse free. There will be a question of the day, information dissemination by the Virginia Cooperative Extension during lunch periods, and plenty of treats will be given out to their peers and adult support systems. Surry Elementary School will have a special guest provided by the Surry Sheriff’s Office. McGruff the Crime Dog will make an appearance to show his support of living a drug free lifestyle. The teens also are planning to volunteer to help the Surry Sheriff’s Office Trunk & Treat where they will set up a vehicle with the theme, ‘Say Boo to Drugs.’”
Pierce shared that this program is, in part, a result of the training the teens have been learning under the sponsorship of the Surry County Department of Youth and Family Resources.
Members received certificates after completing their Trauma Informed Leadership Training Session sponsored by the Crater District Health Department
“We have many programs throughout the year to help increase leadership skills of teens, improve communication between youth and adults, and give youth an opportunity to help others,” she said. “The teens engage in drug/alcohol prevention activities, host planning meetings, and participate in community service projects throughout the year, helping the department with after school mentoring programs, packing school supplies, serving as camp counselors and raising funds to help those less fortunate.”
During the summer, Pierce said, some of the youth attended special training sessions to equip them with practical skills needed to help them work more effectively with their peers.
“Training involved helping the young people to tell their personal story in a way that would help their peers who have experienced trauma or who have adversities in life that hinder them from being successful,” Pierce added. “Several of the teens spent one full week at a camp at Longwood University in Farmville, VA. The camp, called YADAPP (Youth Adolescent Drug and Alcohol Prevention Program) is sponsored annually by the Virginia Department of Alcohol Beverage Control. The camp helps students in grades nine through twelve to develop drug prevention activities for their school and community called Strategies To Act Now (STAN) Plan.”
Top to Bottom Brayden Byrd, Malachi Brown, Elijah Drew, Harrison Lightfoot, Spencer Logan (Dept. of Youth & Family Resources Program Coordinator), Aundrea Hamrick (Adult Volunteer Sponsor), Bre’cha Byrd, Raven Pierce and Dionna Charity.
Of the two youth council teams from Surry, Pierce said, “Team One included: Dionna Charity, Raven Pierce, and Bre’cha Byrd. Team Two, consisted of Harrison Lightfoot III, Malachi Brown, Elijah Drew, and Breyden Byrd. These teams represented their county and the Surry County Public System very well while at the YADAPP camp. For the third consecutive year, Team One was fortunate to create a winning STAN Plan to help their school and community be alcohol and drug-free and received a mini grant of $250 to help implement their plan. Team two was the first all-boys team from Surry to participate in YADAPP, and they demonstrated excellent teamwork and leadership skills.”
In yet another local effort by this group of young leaders, Pierce said that the youth council helped Surry County High School to kick off the opening assembly on the first day of school by “hyping the student body up for the new school year to foster a positive school climate. Their efforts that day also served to kick off their YADAPP STAN Plan to help their school to be drug free for 180 days – a full school year – as that was the target time frame to implement their plan. Throughout the year, the team will conduct prevention activities like the Red Ribbon Awareness event to ensure their peers can have fun without being high or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Sponsors are needed to help these youth make a difference. Anyone interested in supporting them in future activities may call 757-294-5278.”