Surry Central High School concluded Addiction Awareness Week on Friday after a week that was chock-full of information on the dangers of substance use and mental health. Students signed up for sessions during their school day throughout the week and organizers said that interest and participation were up from last year.
Surry Central health science teacher Dena Cave took a leadership role in arranging the week’s programming that successfully brought small groups together to have more intimate discussions.
Charlotte Reeves, outreach coordinator for the Surry County Office of Substance Abuse Recovery, said it was a night and day difference. “Well, for one, we didn’t have them all in the gym, we did smaller groups. Kids are more likely to participate in small group discussions,” she said drawing a contrast. “Assemblies just are not as effective.”
Friday was an award day for contests held during the week. Madelyn Wilmoth was the winner of the essay contest followed by Isaac Eller, Alexis Stanley and Chase Butcher. Ivy Toney took first place in the poster contest, second was Alexis Pedraza, and Jaiden Bledsoe took third.
The winning poster designed by Ivy is a gut-wrenching image of a young person sitting next to a casket with the words, “The result of drug use is death.”
The inspiration from the poster was taken from her own experience, she lost her father to overdose in February. She said the intended message is that drugs are inherently dangerous and that using even one time may be one time too many. She also designed an addiction awareness shirt that was being sold at Surry Central.
Speakers throughout the week covered an array of topics from anxiety and health, decision making, and firsthand stories of families who have suffered a loss and of success stories of recovery.
One of the most familiar stories to Surry Central students and the public is that of Noah Lowe, who passed away in 2020 from an overdose.
This year’s graduating class were freshmen the year Lowe died, and Cave said she wonders what effect that may have on Central students. When they lose the tangible firsthand connection to the pain the student body felt at that time, she wonders if some of the passion currently felt at Surry Central may graduate with those students.
Waiting for the next tragedy to drum up interest in an awareness campaign is not an acceptable solution to families who have lost someone. Rather, people like Cave are stepping up along with resilient parents like Carey Lowe, Noah’s mother, and continuing to spread the word far and wide about the dangers of drugs, alcohol, and vaping.