ROGERSVILLE –– Hawkins County Sessions Court Judge Todd Ross presented a new program to the Hawkins County Anti-Drug Coalition on Thursday afternoon. The idea was found not far from the tree, from his daughter, Sydney.
“My daughter has started a club at Volunteer called Fighting Teen Addiction,” Ross said at the meeting.
Pending Hawkins County Board of Education approval, Sydney started ‘Fighting Teen Addiction’. “She started this one day during lunch period. During the four lunch periods, she signed 128 or 138 students. During the first day, it became the largest student organization at Volunteer. The Beta Club had been the largest at around 80 students,” Ross said.
“It was obvious from that day that kids know it is a problem, they know it’s there and there’s nothing there for them around that we can tell. We’re hoping to change that.”
Ross said that he was proud of that and proud that the kids were willing to step up. “There were kids from all different aspects. I thought it was cool that you were getting kids together that normally don’t interact. Almost immediately, we had contact from Cherokee High School students. We had planned on trying to do that this week, but Mr. Starnes asked that we wait until the Hawkins County School Board approved it. We do have students pledged to start it there and hopefully we’ll get the Clinch kids, also,” the judge said.
Ross also noted that through social media, kids from other high schools outside Hawkins County have expressed interest in starting similar clubs. Schools include Dobyns-Bennett in Kingsport and Science Hill in Johnson City. “Kids are starving for something. There’s nothing in the in the schools about addiction, whether it be drugs or alcohol, eating disorders, whatever the case may be. There used to be (such clubs as) Students Against Driving Drunk (SADD).
“The one thing I liked when Sydney was putting this together was not only is it going to offer information, but she is going to have meetings, bring in guest speakers and various treatment providers. We’re wanting to set up a support system for students whose parents and loved ones are suffering from addiction,” Ross said.
The judge said that Sydney had come to court with him several times. “At the jail, all day long I hear the prisoners say that ‘I need to get home to take care of my kids’. Usually I ask them the question ‘Where were your kids when you were out doing this?’ For every one of them who comes through there, there’s a 90 percent chance that there’s a child somewhere. Unfortunately, the statistics show that a child who grows up in that environment is more likely to become an addict and suffer the way their parents have,” he said.
Ross is hoping that the program can offer support and assistance to students where addiction is present in their home. “Hopefully, we can give them somewhere to go and someone to talk to. Hopefully we’ll be able to do some peer training, get the guidance counselors involved and offer more assistance at the school for children to have a place to pull more information,” he said.
Ross introduced a multi-colored wrist bracelet to give to attendees of the meeting. The bracelets have ‘Fighting Teen Addiction’ on one side and ‘VHS 2016’ on the other.
Paul Blair, Sydney’s faculty sponsor at Volunteer, was at the Johnson City Mall recently wearing the bracelet, according to Ross. “This girl came running up to him asking to see his bracelet. She told him she wanted one of those so bad, she saw it on the news. He pulled it off his arm and gave it to her,” Ross said. “She goes to Science Hill. I thought that it was really neat that the kids are paying attention to what’s going on and that things are moving forward there.”
The plan is that the Hawkins County Recovery Court will be a mentor organization to the “Fighting Teen Addiction” clubs. Ross also suggested that once Cherokee and Clinch get on board with similar clubs, a fall festival-type event should be held with inflatables, music and treatment providers present.
Ross also brought attendees up to date on the Hawkins County Recovery Court.
Ross talked about one young man who had been sent to treatment recently. The person had done well enough to earn a pass home, but made a bad decision and had been in jail for 33 days. The program told him he could come back after 30 days, but he had to pay his way back for $1,325. Ross had gotten on Facebook looking for ways to raise money. He had gotten a Facebook friend request from an appeals court clerk in Knoxville. The clerk had had a daughter pass away recently from an overdose and pledged half of the cost.
“It doesn’t just happen at the trailer parks or projects, it’s everywhere. It’s in our subdivisions, our lakes, and our schools. Every time we help one of these people, we reduce the chances someone you love is going to get hit by a intoxicated driver, your house will get broken into or robbed, all those things factor in. The more people we help, the safer we’ll make our county,” Ross added.