THOMASVILLE — Several local youths are serious about promoting a drug- and alcohol-free life for their generation.

Seven youths from Thomas County Central High School and Thomasville Scholars Academy participated in the 2006 Georgia Youth Summit at Rock Eagle in October. They also attended Tuesday’s Thomas County Family Connection’s meeting to announce their intention to join the program and partner with its anti-drug and gang coalition to form and carry out a plan to promote drug- and alcohol-free youths.

“We picked drug and alcohol abuse in Thomas County,” said team member Laura Lilly, 17, of her team’s topic. “Drug and alcohol abuse can lead to negative impacts on the youth and the family dynamic. Then, it can cause family dysfunction and another member, like a younger brother or sister, is more likely to get involved with drugs or alcohol. We want to start at the root of the problem.”

The students were chosen to attend the three-day summit by staff at their schools. The youths who attended the summit were Matthew Jones, Sarah Hardy, Elizabeth Rockwell and Lilly of the Thomasville Scholars Academy; and J.T. Wynn, Kip Coram and Amanda Rayburn of Central.

“Each county in the state had delegates attend the 2006 Georgia Youth Summit and picked a topic to be its mission for the next 12 months,” said Sonny Winter, adult leader for the Thomas County delegation. “Ours was one of the largest groups in the state.”

The summit is designed to create awareness of state/local issues, enhance youth-adult partnerships on a local level and equip youths to become active in improving their communities. It is funded by the governor’s office and the Georgia General Assembly.

The theme for the 2006 summit was “Georgia’s Leaders: Lighting the Way.” Participants interacted with state officials, state and local civic and education leaders, University of Georgia faculty and members of the Georgia Rural Development Council.

“We had to pick a problem and come up with a solution,” said Elizabeth Rockwell, 16. “We all were in different groups and attended classes with different counties and learned how to implement plans and shared ideas.”

Rockwell also said the choice to use drug and alcohol prevention was easy for the youths.

“Adults do have problems with these issues, but we see stuff during school and in that environment every day,” she said. “We feel like we are closer to the problem and think we can bring in a new perspective.”

The youths have not come up with a concrete plan to implement in Thomas County yet. They are scheduled for their first meeting with the coalition in the near future to begin discussing ideas and options.

“We want to find a way to address the problem and educate our peers about the effects of using drugs and alcohol,” said Amanda Rayburn, 15.

The team expected to report back to the Georgia Youth Summit on their plan so it can be reviewed at the end of the 12 month period.

“I think we learned the importance of being open-minded,” said Lilly. “We’ve learned that you have to do more than just putting up a poster in the school hallway and calling it a day.”

Kathy Megahee, executive director of Family Connection, embraced the addition of the summit group to her organization’s cause.

“This new youth group wants to be a part of Family Connection,” said Megahee at the meeting. “Youths are a very important part of our work and we look forward to working with you.”

Trending Video

Recommended for you