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Youth coalition will be invaluable to fight against drugs

EDITORIAL

The Advocate-Messenger

It is encouraging to see youth in Boyle County coming together to do their part to solve the drug epidemic.

Kids from multiple churches are forming a new faith-based, non-denominational youth coalition for high-school students. Its members will work to get more teens thinking critically about drug use and its impacts, so they’ll be more likely to make the right decision if they’re presented with an opportunity to do drugs.

The coalition is being guided by Amanda DeWitt, who is working at First Christian Church while she earns her master’s in divinity. DeWitt is leading the coalition as a project for her master’s, but she’s building it with the intent for it continue on its own in the future.

Getting youth to lead on this is important because, as DeWitt has said, kids are listening to each other on social issues.

Adults can and should try to be strong, positive influences for the children in their lives, but at the end of the day, they will always be viewed as grownups, which means their influence will always be limited.

Drug use doesn’t always start when someone is a teenager, but it often does. And it can be a whole lot harder to break a habit started at a young age.

One of the best ways you can learn something is by teaching it to others. Teaching forces you to think about information on a much deeper level than just answers to questions.

The kids getting involved in this coalition are hopefully learning to teach about drug use, which means they are gaining a deeper, more valuable understanding of the problem. And they are then passing that knowledge on to others their age.

We can’t overstate the importance of this project. When adults look down at teenagers and tell them not to do drugs, it turns the issue into a matter of obedience, of authority. That can work sometimes, but commandments from above are always weak to the direct social influences of peers.

When kids look across at each other and agree not to do drugs, it turns the issue into a shared fight, into a matter of friendship. That kind of camaraderie and unity of cause is the strongest possible defense you can have against whatever you’re fighting.

Kathy Miles, coordinator for Boyle’s Agency for Substance Abuse Policy, helped conceive of the coalition and is supporting its formation. She said in addition to educating about drugs, the coalition will also be able to serve as a support network for any kids who do wind up using drugs.

“We’re hoping this kindles some passion from the youth,” she said. “This is the spark to get the fire going. … I hope it will continue.”

So do we.