Bullitt County Public Schools and Bullitt County Partners in Prevention are working together with a five-year federal Drug Free Communities grant of $125,000 annually.
The money is being invested in personnel and resources to assist educators help approximately 7,000 middle and high school students lead drug-free lives.
After spending nine years as a classroom teacher, Stephanie McGarry is coordinating the grant and implementing the initiatives.
“It’s the best of both worlds,” she said. “I feel this funding will positively impact so many lives.”
McGarry believes the area that can most benefit adolescents is a proactive approach with youth involvement.
“Kids listen to their peers so we have middle and high school student leaders creating public service announcements,” she said additionally, 2019 is the year for Very Important Partner (VIP) posters.
“Students need to take the initiative,” McGarry said. “It demonstrates they understand the seriousness of substance abuse and are willing to take a courageous stand.”
Encouraging youth to make wise choices in picking friends, avoiding and saying no to peer pressure, leading by example, being involved in positive activities and thinking about life choices should result in a content, happy and relaxed person. However, that is far from the norm in many family situations.
McGarry, who with her husband, Anthony, has three daughters including twin girls, know today’s society offers a quick and easy fix over working through a problem.
“The struggle is real and Tony and I face the challenge daily,” she smiled. “The temptation is to make the right choices for them but we know they must be taught to do that.”
Kentucky is a state where the economy has traditionally been tied to adult products such as alcohol and tobacco.
Although age restrictions exist, young people can easily find ways of obtaining these products.
McGarry wants to educate youth on the health risks and dangers these products.
“It is hard to convince kids when adults in their family drink and/or smoke or make their living working in the industry,” McGarry noted. “It’s about education and making the right choices.”
The overall impact of alcohol and tobacco usage seems small when compared to drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin and meth.
There is also the danger of addiction to prescription pain killers which is becoming far too common.
McGarry shares the sadness of those who are struggling with addiction or those families who have lost a loved one due to an overdose.
“Addiction is a very powerful thing,” she said. “We want to work to save as many lives as possible from being destroyed. We want healthy, productive students.”