Members of the WISE Coalition, which stands for White County Invested in Substance Abuse Eradication, have been doing what they can to prevent alcohol and substance abuse for almost 10 years.
The organization is now taking its efforts a step further with training high school students in the county on how to prevent drug and alcohol abuse in their hometowns. Trish Reppenhagen, WISE president, said the Lead and Seed program is a youth-powered, adult-supported environmental approach to drug prevention for middle and high school students.
This training is funded by a Drug Free Communities grant, Reppenhagen said.
“The grant money allows us to purchase the curriculum, and they provide the trainer,” she said.
Eighteen students from Searcy, Bald Knob, Bradford, Pangburn, Riverview and White County Central high schools will attend the two-day training to learn how to positively influence their peers.
Phil McGrath, director of Drug Free Communities for the WISE Coalition, said he and other members of the organization went to schools in the county to ask administrators to select students who would be ideal candidates to participate in the training.
“It’s hard for us to hit every area in White County,” Reppenhagen said.
This program will spread the word about prevention and fill in the gaps that the WISE Coalition isn’t able to reach when it attends various health fairs in the community, she said.
“Through this, we’ll have insight as to what is happening in their world,” Reppenhagen said.
In addition to learning how to improve their communities, Reppenhagen said, students will develop an action plan to reduce alcohol, tobacco and illicit-drug use by young people.
This is the first year for this training, and the organization plans to continue it as long as it can.
“With this, we have the opportunity to help the youth in this community,” Reppenhagen said.
Members of WISE range in age and profession, but every member has the same goal: to better their communities.
Arthur Churchill, drug-free community coordinator, has found a passion for ridding the county of prescription drugs that are no longer in use by the people for whom they were prescribed.
“We’ve put drug-take-back boxes [in place],” Churchill said.
Community members with old or unused prescription drugs can drop them off in a box that is under surveillance to get the medicines out of the hands of someone who doesn’t need them.
Members of the WISE Coalition said they hope the Lead and Seed program will encourage the youth of the community to potentially join the WISE organization.
“The youth can get involved and let [the organization] grow,” Reppenhagen said. “We’re really excited.”
High school students will attend training at Arkansas State University-Searcy on Friday and Saturday.
Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or email@example.com.