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Nonprofit Promotes Healthy Life Choices

Editor’s Note: This weekly column is part of an ongoing series in which various residents of the community share their United Way story and how United Way has personally impacted them.

Last school year we received a referral from a school after a parent had reached out to them regarding concerns with her son. He was caught vaping, and she had additional concerns about drug use, as his father has addictions to multiple substances, including alcohol and cocaine. There was even an active court case in which the mother was trying to receive full custody of both of her children.

I worked with this 15-year-old student for 6 months, utilizing our Teen Intervene program, as well as providing relevant drug education. He had experienced first-hand pressures from his own father to use certain substances, such as alcohol, marijuana, and hallucinogenic drugs. Throughout our time together, he was able to get through nicotine cravings, quit vaping entirely, proudly announce that he never wanted to use any other substances, and learn ways to cope with the stress and pressure he experiences within his home life.

We talked extensively about addiction, refusal skills, and healthy decision making. This student would actively reach out to his principal to ensure that he and I would still be able to meet at least once a month and was always comfortable asking questions and being honest when he wanted more help or guidance. We both felt confident at the end of the school year that he had the strategies and confidence to make the best choices for his own health and safety.

I am proud to hear that this student is doing great and has since become an advocate against vaping among his peers. We recently received another referral for our Teen Intervene services from a parent, and she disclosed that she was inspired to reach out to us because of how we were able to help a friend’s son. It turns out this was my previous student. We even learned that he has become active in one of the school’s event committees, which he was voted into the position by his peers. I am so grateful that our services have had such a positive and lasting impact on the clients we work with, as well as their families and peers within the community. Many of these services would not be available so readily without the support of United Way of Southern Chautauqua County. We are proud to be one of their community partners.

Trish Whetstone is a Prevention Education Coordinator with Prevention Works, formerly known as CASAC, whose mission is to build a safe and healthy environment by effectively educating the community on positive life choices. Established in 1974, Prevention Works provides services in every school district in Chautauqua County, and provides youth programs, adult programs, trainings, and many other resources to support healthy behaviors through prevention efforts. More information can be found at casacweb.org.

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