Local youths place first in statewide anti-substance abuse competition

Posted: Apr. 18, 2013 10:32 am Updated: May. 2, 2013 11:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Local high school students placed first in a statewide contest to produce anti-substance abuse messages.

The 26 students involved in the Great River Operation Snowball of Quincy designed a video to illustrate the dangers of drinking and driving.

The video, which shows the negative impact a drunken-driving crash can have on all parties involved, ranked first among projects submitted to the contest by 130 chapters involving more than 50,000 youths.

Operation Snowball is a statewide nonprofit organization that encourages young people to avoid drugs and alcohol. The organization awarded the Quincy chapter with $1,000 for the video project.

Pamela Foster, the Quincy chapter's leader and a prevention specialist at Recovery Resources, said the chapter will use the prize money to continue with Operation Snowball's current programs.

"It is wonderful working with kids who are committed to being drug-free," Foster said.

The Operation Snowball students travel to area elementary schools weekly to teach about the importance of making responsible decisions.

Mackenzie Johnston, a senior at Quincy High School and president of Quincy's Operation Snowball chapter, said she became involved in the project because she had benefited from it during middle school.

"I really believed in not using drugs or alcohol in seventh grade, and if I can make a kid feel like I felt in the seventh grade, then that would be awesome," Johnston said.

She hopes the local chapter's video helps young people think about the consequences of their actions. Johnston and her teammate featured local law enforcement and EMTs in the project.

The group debuted the short video to 100 seventh-graders in February. Johnston said the video changed the entire mood of the room. When the music began, the kids giggled, but as the dramatic images rolled across the screen, no one spoke.

"It took a couple minutes for them to be able to snap out of it and talk about it," Johnston said.

"It hit some of them pretty hard, and that was the goal."