By Jeff Gallatin
North Olmsted’s Eagles are flying above the rest of Ohio in a new program designed to have teenagers help warn their fellow students about the dangers of heroin.
During two special assemblies Thursday in the North Olmsted High School gymnasium, a group of school district, municipal court and state dignitaries praised the NOHS students serving as ambassadors in the “5 Minutes for Life” program. The state program has a group of students at high schools throughout the state serving as ambassadors using different methods of communication, such as texting, informational programs and other techniques, to help communicate dangers of heroin and drug abuse.
NOHS was the first Cuyahoga County high school to join the program and, with more than 64 student ambassadors, it leads the entire state of Ohio in numbers of student ambassadors involved.
Jim Carbone, the school resource officer for North Olmsted city police, said the high level of involvement by North Olmsted students is not a surprise to him.
“I’ve known most of these students since the third or fourth grade, and they always have been a very committed group to helping others and their community,” Carbone said after the assembly. “This is something which affects their fellow students and themselves, and they are working to help stop the problems.”
During the speakers portion of the assemblies, Carbone cautioned the students about the dangers of heroin.
“The best day of your life is the day before you start using heroin,” Carbone said about the use of the drug. “Your life is never the same or as good as it was before you started using it.”
Carbone said the state program is another example of a proactive program that helps blunt the potential for students and communities to become involved with drugs.
When state officials approached Carbone and the district about helping initiate the program at North Olmsted, Carbone said the students and the district easily got the numbers needed to get it underway.
“They talked about getting four or five students at each school, and I said we could do that and more,” he said. “We started with athletic teams, and then we went to all the student organizations to get involved. Now, we have some of them talking to friends, who will talk to other friends. I think we can get well over 100 with this. Plus, they’ll be texting and sending messages to other students about the program and drug use in general.”
North Olmsted High School Principal Jeff Stanton said communication between students is a key to the program’s effectiveness.
“We’re realistic enough to know that there are times teenagers will not always want to listen to adults or someone they don’t know,” he said. “But they will listen to their friends and peers. That’s where hearing about this from the student ambassadors, who they know, will be so important. The fact that the students are so willing to get involved and reach out on a personal level to their fellow students is a big part of what will help make this work.”
Officials from the Ohio State Highway Patrol also participated, with John Born, superintendent of OSHP, praising the students. Trooper Brian McGill and his K-9 partner, Edo, also put on a presentation for the students about how they can find drugs in different packages and at different sites.