HUGHESVILLE - Student representatives from area schools' Students Against Destructive Decisions clubs gathered recently to take their message to the county level.
Students from seven of the county's nine high schools, including St. John Neumann Regional Academy, took part in an informative luncheon at the Lycoming Career and Technical Center, 293 Cemetery St.
"This is a unique opportunity," said Geoffrey S. Arthur, executive director of Valley Prevention Services Inc.
Students from Hughesville High School discuss how they will inform their peers of the data collected from the state youth survey. Students from county schools recently gathered to discuss how to discourage the use of illegal substances.
Students wear “Find Your Anti-Drug” T-shirts during a Youth Development Task Force luncheon. All county schools received the shirts and will wear them Friday.
The day included a presentation of the state Youth Survey, which is conducted every two years. The survey was last given in 2011 and again will be administered this fall. Arthur said that most do not use drugs or alcohol, but younger children perceive a much larger use among high school students.
He hopes that by getting the message out that most students do not use those substances, they will be able to persuade students to "join the majority."
"A majority of kids are not drinking alcohol. A majority of kids are not smoking cigarettes. A majority of kids are not using drugs," Arthur said.
Students in grades six, eight, 10 and 12 are given the survey. Arthur reported more than 2,000 students participated in the 2011 survey.
Dylan Rockoff, of Loyalsock Township, and Connor McLaughlin, of Muncy, explained that the survey identifies trends in drug and alcohol use among students. It also looks at factors that influenced and did not influence the use of alcohol and drugs.
Rockoff reported that the survey found school rewards and group opportunities, such as SADD Club, kept students from using those substances.
"Keeping busy really, really keeps me out of trouble," Rockoff said.
McLaughlin added that it's easier to get a student involved in a positive activity, rather than simply requesting them to stop.
Low perceived risk of using, positive parental attitudes toward substances and community disorganization were the three factors identified for why students use.
"One of the things we need to focus on is the reeducation of not only students but parents," Rockoff said.
And although the data showed a downward trend in students use of alcohol and cigarettes, prescription drugs are on the rise.
"There's a substantial increase in the abuse of prescription drugs," McLaughlin reported.
Rockoff said it's a "lack of education" on prescription drugs that contributes to that trend. Most, he said, think of medicine as good for them and cannot harm them.
After hearing the results, students broke into groups and thought of ways of spreading the message to their peers. Some schools would use the data in morning announcements, programs and assemblies, they reported.
"We have a lot of power in this room," Arthur said. "It's a neat thing when you see students here basically from Jersey Shore to Muncy," he said.
Students received Anti-Drug t-shirts at the conference and will be wearing them at their schools Friday.
"I don't want to be part of the problem," Rockoff said. "I want to be part of the solution."