Prevention focus: High school seniors take on substance abuse prevention projects

High school students are embracing the opioid addiction prevention efforts of the local Alliance for Substance Abuse Progress through their senior projects.

The projects represent a wide range of prevention efforts, from a sobriety support group for youth ages 12 through 18 to an opioid awareness presentation developed for Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. coaches and athletes.

Columbus North High School senior Isaac Johnson created the opioid awareness presentation for BCSC after researching the effects that drug abuse may have not just on local residents, but also amateur and professional athletes.

Johnson, who plays in a developmental soccer league in Indianapolis, created an anonymous online survey which was distributed to about 70 Columbus North High School athletes.

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The survey asked the athletes to reveal what they believed to be the most commonly-used drugs among sports competitors, based on their personal experience and observations.

The survey also asked athletes to list their closest confidant, such as a coach or team captain.

Half of those who participated in the survey revealed that alcohol, marijuana or Adderall, a prescription drug commonly prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, are the substances most often used. Adderall can be habit-forming, according to prescribing information.

Johnson said the goal of his project was intended to help coaches become more educated and reinforce the effects drugs can have on athletes.

“I think a little more emphasis is needed,” Johnson said. “It can lead to horrible consequences.”

Johnson’s final presentation will be given to Larry Perkinson, BCSC employee and student assistance coordinator, who plans to distribute it to school corporation coaches.

Perkinson said Johnson’s project highlights the need for coaches and athletes to talk about substance abuse.

“I think it’s not a conversation that’s a one-time conversation,” Perkinson said. “What a great thing to empower young people to help us out,” Perkinson said.

Currently, the school corporation selects 15 student athletes from Columbus North and 15 from Columbus East each month from a pool of individuals to participate in random drug testing, Perkinson said. The BCSC policy has been in effect for the last 15 years.

Jennifer Hester, senior project coordinator and a health teacher at Columbus North, credited Johnson for his efforts.

“Anytime we can have a student be proactive in terms of solving a problem, we encourage a project,” Hester said. “I hope this will impact future athletes, future coaches and students.”

In another project, Savannah Ison, a recent Columbus East High School graduate, created a sobriety support group for teens.

Anne Edds, East’s senior project coordinator, said Ison has held two meetings at United Way of Bartholomew County and another gathering at Columbus Bowling Center.

Edds said a major focus of senior projects in the school corporation is to give students an opportunity to enhance their learning.

“Senior projects are designed to keep students engaged in their learning throughout their senior year,” she said.

Jeff Jones, executive lead for ASAP, said the organization has been impressed with the work being done by the high school students as part of ASAP’s prevention efforts.

“We have been extremely impressed with the work of the high school seniors so far and are hoping more seniors will take advantage of the opportunity to conduct a senior project aimed at preventing their peers from using and abusing substances,” Jones said.

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The Alliance for Substance Abuse Progress in Bartholomew County, which was created in 2017, provided Project Prevent grant funding for several senior projects through the Mark and Wendy Elwood Substance Abuse Prevention Fund.

The substance abuse prevention fund was created by Columbus residents Mark and Wendy Elwood, which resulted in $1 million in funding after the couple agreed to match up to $500,000.

Project Prevent is geared toward education in the community. It is targeted to Bartholomew County youth-serving organizations, faith-based groups, clubs, teams or other groups operating as or under the financial supervision of a 501c3 tax exempt organization, according to ASAP’s website.

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