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Youth group working to educate students about dangers of tobacco, alcohol and drug use

Mar. 12—ANDERSON — The Minority Health Coalition has started a program in the Anderson Community School system to encourage youth not to abstain from alcohol, tobacco and drugs.

Jayden Cox, the youth program mentor, explained Monday to the school board the Youth for Change program.

He said the program is targeted to people between the ages of 13 and 18 at all school buildings and encourages a core group of 10 members to educate their peers on the dangers of vaping, smoking, alcohol and drugs.

"We want the kids to be the example," Cox said. "We want them to be in the majority."

The group meets at the offices of the Minority Health Coalition building and three members recently took part in a drug free conference in Washington.

"We want the young people to direct the activities," Cox said.

He said recent events at Anderson High School and the Highland Middle School had between 350 and 400 students pledge to remain alcohol, drug and tobacco free.

The group has sponsored a game night and community outreach events.

Student Demari Wills said vaping is an epidemic and a national issue. Wills said she didn't know what overdose looked like before attending the national conference.

"This information is something I can educate my peers and community on as opioids have become an issue," she said.

Student MyLasia Turner said vaping and tobacco is highly accessible to young people.

"We learned the importance of having a youth group in the county," Turner said. "We want to encourage people of all ages not to use tobacco, alcohol and drugs."

Wills said the organization has started a billboard campaign locally to discourage vaping and smoking.

"We want to combat the targeting of young people to use vaping and tobacco products," Cox said.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.