On Tuesday, Yelm Middle School students gained the support of Yelm City Council through an official “Drug Awareness Day” proclamation to support their quest in tackling underage drug use through “Project Citizen.”
Yelm Councilor Cody Colt, known as Mr. Colt to his seventh grade Washington State Government and History class at YMS, had his students find an issue in the Yelm community and develop a plan to address it.
“They had to do all of the research on it themselves, they had to put teams together to come up with different ways of addressing this, they had to come up with a plan on how to solve this or create possible solutions to solve it,” Yelm Mayor JW Foster said before reading the proclamation.
The students began the project by calling Yelm Police Chief Todd Stancil and Foster to gain insight on problems facing the community. After holding interviews with city officials and talking with nurses from local hospitals, the class decided underage drug use at the skatepark was the problem they wanted to address.
“Underage drug use at the Yelm Skatepark is a bigger problem than I thought before,” said Student Gabrielle Hollenbeck. “Kids are uneducated on the long-term effects of drugs and don’t realize there are other ways to cope with their problems.”
Colt’s class presented the resolution to council to create a “Drug Awareness Day” to be held at the Yelm City Park. The day would be held on the last Saturday in June and would include food, fun, and provide a place for underage kids to seek help and gain information of the dangers of drug use.
Council accepted the idea and suggested the students create an official proclamation for the council and Mayor JW Foster to sign.
Foster read the proclamation which read in part that “Many children become exposed to drugs because important figures, whether that be actors musicians or popular people use them and that is poised as important or cool,” and that “many children have been exposed to drugs by older peers or a person higher up on the food chain of popularity.”
Students have been working collaboratively with True North, a student assistance program to help underage students struggling with substance abuse. The students found 36 percent of minors get drugs and alcohol from older siblings or friends, 12 percent get substances from their parents and another 6 percent partake in drug or alcohol use with their parents.
“It’s alarming to see the amount of kids using drugs at the skatepark,” said Student Nathan Fitch. “This will open children up to the dangers and ways to get out of it and to get into a better surrounding of people.”
Drug awareness day will allow students who struggle with drug abuse to meet others in a similar situation and create relationships through personal experiences, according to the class.
“A kid might be addicted and not know how to tell their parents or know how to get help,” said Student Ben Carney. “True North offers no attachments where people can talk about problems one-on-one without feeling ashamed.”
Colt’s class will present their project at the state Capitol building May 19 in a state-wide competition. The winner will be selected by a panel of judges and the winning class will be invited to present their project in Washington DC.
“I think we have a good shot at it,” Colt said. “We are the only class that I know of in the state that received an official proclamation by a city so we have that working for us.”