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Students head to Maryland for drug prevention training

ESTACADA NEWS PHOTO: ISABEL GAUTSCHI - Estacada High School seniors and Above the Influence members Bridgette Cade (from left), Alexi Caba and Melissa Nuno are preparing for a Feb. 1-6 trip to the east coast. The three will attend the annual Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America National Leadership Forum in National Harbor, Md. and will spend a day meeting with lawmakers in Washington, D.C.Estacada High School seniors Alexi Caba, Bridgette Cade and Melissa Nuño take being “Above the Influence” very seriously.

The three are preparing for a trip to Maryland to attend a drug prevention conference.

“I see it every day at school and on social media, many of these young kids think that it’s so cool to smoke or drink and they go around bragging about it,” Nuño wrote. “It’s sad to hear when a teen says that that’s all they need in life, that it’s their happiness. But no, there is so much more.”

The students said they find casual references to marijuana and alcohol-use amongst their peers prevalent and disturbing, though they admit to hearing about it more than they’ve seen it.The three are passionate about spreading the message that the impact of drug-use is anything but casual. All three students can point to examples in which drugs harmed someone they knew.

“I’ve seen many people destroy their futures because they are addicted to drugs, people that have had a lot of potential,” Caba wrote. “My father started abusing drugs when he was a teenager and it destroyed him. His relationships were in ruins and it limited him physically and mentally. I would never wish addiction on anyone, that is why I am so fervent in educating and supporting my peers so that they can lead healthy lives.”

The three teens make up Above the Influence, a school club which functions as the youth branch of Drug-free Estacada Families and Youth (DEFY), a local drug prevention coalition.

This year, the club has concentrated on providing a place before sport events where young people can go without being tempted to use drugs or alcohol.

“So far this year, Above the Influence has focused on partnering with Estacada Athletics to provide a drug-free place that students can go before sporting events. We have hosted two events this year (one in December and one in January), and are planning on doing three more during the winter sports season,” said Heather Treanor, Above the Influence youth coordinator and Estacada High School English teacher.

“We are fortunate to have the strong support of the Vice Principal/Athletic Director, Ryan Carpenter, and the (Estacada High School) Boosters club for these events,” Treanor continued. “Mr. Carpenter allows Above the Influence to announce raffle winners during the games at half-time and has allowed us to use the athletics media equipment for the pre-game events. The EHS Boosters club has come in early to provide popcorn and food for the students who attend the events as well.”

DEFY is footing the bill to send Caba, Cade and Nuño to the annual Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America National Leadership Forum in National Harbor, MD. in early February.

They will be accompanied by Treanor, and a Clackamas County Children Youth and Families Division representative.

This is the second time DEFY has sent Estacada students to the annual conference and Caba was among those who attended during her sophomore year.

The students will have the opportunity to participate in trainings, meet other coalitions from throughout the nation, and will spend a day in Washington D.C. to meet with state legislators or their aides.

DEFY Director Susie Tracy explained that in 2010, the local coalition was awarded a five-year grant through the Drug Free Communities Support grant by the White House of National Drug Control Policy and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Other drug prevention coalitions are similarly funded, she said.

“Because the primary goal of these grants is to reduce substance abuse among youths ... it’s essential for them to hear many of these young people... that are involved in these coalitions have personal experience at some level with the impact of drugs on their lives,” Tracy said. “This gives them an opportunity to share those stories. And to share their personal passion and emotion face to face with the people that are making the funding decisions.”

The teens said they look forward to the learning experience and getting ideas from other coalitions on effective drug prevention methods.

“Sharing knowledge with those around us is of the utmost importance, many don’t actively seek accurate information about drugs,” wrote Caba, who has been involved in Above the Influence throughout high school and is now the club’s president. “If no one educates youth about drugs all they are going to know about them is what their peers are saying, either by their experience or speculation. Sharing a drug free message assures our peers that not everyone is using drugs, that one doesn’t have to be high to enjoy life.”

With knowledge gathered from the conference, the students will soon develop a new action plan for how best to disseminate their anti-drug message in their school.

“I want to start something that people will want to come for the actual purpose,” said Nuño. “I feel like lately a lot of people have been coming because there will be free food or something, they show up for that and they leave... I want people to understand what we’re doing and want to come for that. Show support for it.”

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