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Craighead County students march for drug abuse awareness

November 5, 2018

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) — McKenzie Hanson wants to prevent drug abuse because it tears apart families.

Hanson, a 10th-grade student at Valley View High School, said her uncle has battled drug addiction.

“My uncle has been really bad on drugs,” she said. Hanson said her uncle is addicted to methamphetamine.

“He’s been hooked on it his whole life, and it’s ruined all his relationships,” she said. “He can’t keep a job or anything. He’s a huge Christian, but he’ll get off of it and then he gets right back on it.”

Hanson said her uncle was cooking methamphetamine in his apartment, wound up causing a fire there, got kicked out of the apartment and went to jail.

“It’s really sad because he’s such a good person,” Hanson said.

More than 860 Craighead County students marched down Main Street in Jonesboro during the Leave Your Mark Rally last month to spread drug abuse awareness, the Jonesboro Sun reported.

Hanson and two of her 10th-grade classmates, Taylor Arnoult and Abbey Edwards, have seen drug use and abuse at their school.

There are many kids in her school who use drugs, Arnoult said.

She said she has ended friendships because of drug abuse.

“I had to tear apart some friendships because of it,” Arnoult said. “I didn’t want to be associated with those people.”

Edwards said once students at the school start using drugs, they wind up getting suspended.

“And then they don’t get the best education they can get because they get suspended,” she said.

Edwards said she, too, has ended friendships because of drug use.

“I don’t want to be surrounded by that,” she said.

The three young women said the main drug used at their school is marijuana, but that prescription medication such as hydrocodone and Adderall are prevalent as well.

Alicia Barnes, a ninth-grade student at Nettleton High School, wants her school to be drug-free.

“I want to prove that anyone can be drug-free,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how old you are.”

Barnes said addiction to pain medications has run through her family.

Once the march ended in front of the Craighead County District Courthouse, Ava Shatley, an eighth-grader at Jonesboro’s MacArthur Junior High School, sang “The Star Spangled Banner.”

She said she was at the event because she wants kids to have fun and to stay drug-free.

“A lot of students in my school get in a lot of bad situations,” Shatley said. “There is teen pregnancy. Students get involved with drugs. It’s unhealthy.”

She said she thought the event does a good job of educating youth about why they should stay away from drugs.

“This is your journey, travel drug-free,” was the saying for the event, which featured performances from Bay Elementary School and Valley View High School.

Bay’s sketch, performed by its Out of the Dark club, used Christian artist Zach Williams’ song, “Fear Is a Liar,” to help show how a person gets in the state of mind where they think drugs might help and how a person can overcome drug abuse through friends, family, support and love, and treatment. The actors wore black shirts with neon-green font showing the name of different drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and prescription medication.

“A lot of the kids know of people who have struggled,” said Deondra Courtney, a counselor with Bay Elementary School. “They’re motivated to help their peers.”

Valley View High School’s skit was about how drugs supposedly enhance your life, but really they lie.

Cindy Gomez, a 10th-grader at The Academy of Jonesboro High School’s Health and Human Services Academy, said the march and rally was a great learning experience.

“It shows us a lot in terms of addictive drugs,” she said. “Kids can see these sketches and then they remember how bad drugs are.”

Noelle Richardson, president for Out Of The Dark Coalition, was happy about the turnout for the event that she coordinated.

“It was by far the best program yet,” she said about the march and rally, which is in its sixth year. “We had more students and the most schools involved. It was more engaging than ever before.”

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Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, http://www.jonesborosun.com

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