Event uses real-life experiences to highlight dangers of drug use

Judge Donna Congeni Fitzsimmons outlines how the court handles teens involved with substance abuse. Photo by Denny Wendell

Parents, children, community and school leaders gathered on Tuesday, May 7, for the “Let’s Talk About It” parent drug education event, held at Bay Middle School. Highlighting the evening’s event were presentations by Bay Village Detective Kevin Krolkoski and Judge Donna Congeni Fitzsimmons of the Rocky River Municipal Court. 

“After hearing about the amount of drugs in our community and how easy it is for our kids to get them, I’m now convinced drug use, abuse and addiction can hit any Bay family,” said one of the parents in attendance.

The drug education event opened with information displays by the Westshore Enforcement Bureau (WEB), Recovery Resources, and Drug Awareness and Prevention Inc., surrounded by over 80 colorful handmade drug awareness posters designed by Bay Middle School seventh and eighth-grade students. Parents and children were given an opportunity to collect literature and also talk with the representatives.

When the education program began, students split out to their own discussion session led by Jennifer Tulli and Arnette Mathews from Recovery Resources, and Jamie Mahnic from Bay Family Services. The students got to hear from a guest student who told stories how she experienced the damages of drug use in her family and shared ways teens can abstain from trying drugs by making good healthy, drug-free choices.

The parent session was led by a local couple who presented information on drug use trends, the misinformation surrounding medical marijuana, reasons why kids choose to use, the signs and risk factors parents need to be aware of and the outdated stigma associated with drug use and addiction. Included in the session were stories from Detective Krolkoski and Judge Fitzsimmons about their experiences in the criminal justice system with youth substance abuse, followed by an open Q&A session.

Said one of the parents, “What a great event, I’m so glad I came tonight. I now recognize how important it is for parents to keep talking with their children about the dangers of alcohol and other drug use. I now know what to do if I see any red flags. This is a serious issue and I just wish more parents were here to hear it.”

A special achievement award was also presented by the HUGS Foundation to Bay Middle School Principal Sean McAndrews, for his commitment, support and years of ongoing dedication to parent and student drug education awareness in the school and the community. The award was presented by Dianne Vogt, founder and board president of HUGS, an organization dedicated to helping families and children struggling with the costs associated with drug addiction recovery programs. HUGS stands for Hope, Understanding, Gratitude and Serenity.

“It is just great that Sean is being recognized for his passion and dedication to this important issue,” said the event organizers. “Without his leadership, many parents and children would not get the education they need to help combat the effects alcohol and other drugs can have on our Bay Village families."

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Volume 6, Issue 10, Posted 9:55 AM, 05.13.2014