PITTSFIELD, Ill. – The Pittsfield Rotary Club's annual Drug Awareness Day has shifted over the years to incorporate issues plaguing younger generations such as problems surrounding social media use.
Pikeland Community School hosted the event Friday morning, and eighth-graders from Griggsville-Perry and Pleasant Hill junior high schools also attended. About 250 students participated.
Judge Mark Drummond closed the event with a presentation on why a young person should leave a party and what can happen if don't.
"I think, as this has gone on, the topics have had to change because of societal changes," said Pike Community School 6-8 Principal Lisa Jockisch.
Almost 20 years ago, the club identified a need in the community to provide more awareness of drug use. Working with local and state agencies, the club began holding Drug Awareness Day for Pike County junior high students.
When Jockisch was a teacher, her children were Pikeland students and participated. She said that after events such as this, it's important for students to continue the conversation with their parents.
"Like anything else in education, you have to have that parental support," Jockisch said.
Volunteer presenters from local and state organizations such as the secretary of state's office, the Pike County Sheriff's Department and Illini Hospital, hosted sessions on topics ranging from the dangers of texting and driving to the legal ramifications of drinking and driving.
Presenters try to offer a glimpse of the consequences of poor decision-making by presenting personal stories and first-hand accounts.
"It kind of scares me away," said Pikeland eighth-grader Grayson Cook after hearing a woman on probation share her story. "It shows kids where they could end up."
Rotary event chairman Sheila Davidsmeyer said the goal of hosting Drug Awareness Day is to reach at least one student and help him or her to under the importance of making positive decisions early in life.
"It's all about decision-making and the consequences of those choices," Davidsmeyer said. "Even if we impact one life a year, that's 20 lives we reached."
The event was made possible with help from the Health and Wellness Foundation of Pike County, which provided T-shirts for all students who attended. The T-shirts display the acronym D.E.A.D. -- drugs end all dreams. Davidsmeyer hopes that students will wear their shirts in the community, prompting conversations and serving as another form of outreach.
For Pikeland eighth-grader Marissa Burdick, the presentation reinforced many concepts she already felt were important.
"It's important to talk about bullying and stress relief. You can see the effects in schools when people get worn down and emotional," Burdick said. "I'm learning that not talking about these things can affect you."