SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — “Don’t do drugs” is the message from seventh grade students at South Charleston Middle School in Kanawha County who spent about a month researching West Virginia’s opioid crisis.
The students presented their findings during an assembly at the school Thursday afternoon.
“I learned that it can affect your life and that you need to stay away from it,” said Lexi Price, a 7th grader at SCMS.
Her advice: “If somebody offers (drugs), just say you don’t want to,” Price said. “Don’t try to act cool.”
Yurelis Rodriguez, another 7th grader, said she found the overdose death rate in West Virginia to be alarming.
“I thought it was crazy how many people die from overdoses each year,” she said.
Some of the students had never heard of opioids before, said art teacher Jenna Hill. She said the project was meant to teach them about the drug’s impact and what to do to get help in cases of addiction.
“My students researched what are opioids, statistics for West Virginia, statistics on the national level and they could go pull images from the Internet and design posters,” Hill said.
Several speakers at Thursday’s assembly shared their own stories of addiction. One woman told students she started doing drugs at 15 years old and is now undergoing treatment for an addiction that could’ve costed her her life.
Cece Brown, a Charleston mother, has been on the front lines of tackling the drug problem in West Virginia. Her son, Ryan Brown, died of a heroin overdose in 2014. She spoke to students about Ryan’s life, his addiction and how other people can get help before it’s too late.
Hill said it’s important to educate students about drug addiction before they enter high school.
“It’s almost like they haven’t had to make those hard decisions yet, so we’re trying to reach them before they make those tough decisions. We want them to make the right decision,” she said.
Throughout Thursday’s presentation, students displayed numerous signs including PSAs, help line phone numbers, art work, music and more to showcase the importance of reaching out for help.
Brooklynn Davis, another student, told MetroNews doing drugs is not worth it.
“To know that it can affect our lives completely — it’s not how I want my life to be,” she said.
At the end of the assembly, student presenters handed out silicone wristbands that read “Cubs Strong – What You Do Matters.” Teachers hope the wristband serves as a friendly reminder to students that their actions play a huge role in fighting opioid abuse nationwide.