Northeastern Middle School students signed a banner that hangs in a school hallway, pledging to be drug free. Photo by Bob Hansen

Drug Free Wayne County Partnership (DFWCP) created a high school-based Youth Coalition to prevent drug and alcohol abuse within Wayne County’s youth. So far, three high schools have started their own groups.

In 2018, DFWCP was awarded the Drug Free Communities Grant by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The grants support communities to help reduce youth substance use. Drug Free Wayne County Partnership is for adult community members. Anyone interested may join or attend meetings.

The youth coalition is a school program that creates recreational opportunities outside of school for students who do not participate in extracurriculars.

According to Midwest Detox Center, an addiction treatment center in Maumee, Ohio, teenagers are more likely to use drugs and alcohol than adults. Teenagers without access to recreational activities are more apt to get addicted.

Tushawn Craig, the DFWCP youth coordinator, says this option gives students a chance to get away from negative influences and be substance free. The programs can help the students and their parents enhance protective factors such as strong family bonds, healthy parent involvement and high self-esteem.

Craig stressed the importance of youth voices. Craig wrote, “We have many strong adult voices contributing to the discussion, so we need student voices to be even more effective.”

The youth coalition’s objective is to stop substance abuse and abuse-related issues early in life. The coalition is trying to prevent risk factors that might lead to taking drugs and alcohol. Risk factors include abuse or neglect, family management problems, poor academic performance, positive attitudes towards drug use, low socio-economic status, and low perception of risk.

The youth coalition participates in monthly membership meetings to better grow drug- free youth. Students may sign up to join the fight against abuse of drugs and alcohol.

High schools in Wayne County that have participating youth coalitions are Richmond, Northeastern and Lincoln. Both Richmond and Northeastern have also created a middle school youth coalition.

Richmond calls their group C2 (C squared), meaning “Committed to Community.” C2’s coordinator is Josh Amyx.

Northeastern’s group started in September 2022, calling themselves Drug Free NHS. Members hosted a school-wide dodgeball tournament in October.

The coordinator for Drug Free NHS is Meg Hinkey.

Lincoln’s coalition and the school’s student government plan to host a winter dance called the Jingle Bell Jam on Saturday. Admission is $5 but students who donate three cans of food may attend free. Cans of food will be donated to Western Wayne Food Pantry.

All schools in Wayne County, and surrounding coalitions across the U.S., have been accepted to Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America 33rd Annual National Leadership Forum in January in Maryland. The Forum plans to work on strategies to fight against substance abuse.

DFWCP hosts a monthly meeting from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. on the first Thursday. The next meeting is Dec. 1 in Lingle Hall at Reid Health, 1100 Reid Parkway, Richmond. DFWCP has a Facebook account that lists other events, @drugfreewaynecounty.

Emily Lightfield, a senior at Lincoln Middle/High School, is an intern at Western Wayne News.

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Emily Lightfield is a graduate of Lincoln High School and was a 2022-2023 intern at the Western Wayne News.