Students treated to movie for drug-free choice
By Wes Wade | (email@example.com)
They gathered from all four city and county high schools Saturday night outside the Foothills Carmike Cinemas. Some were Team Edward, others Team Jacob. But they were all there together with something in common, as students who decided to take a stand against drug and alcohol abuse.
Those in attendance — some 450 juniors and seniors there for a special premiere-style screening of “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2” — were there because of their decision to pledge their commitment to a drug-free lifestyle during Red Ribbon Week in October.
Planned by the Blount County Substance Abuse Prevention Action Team, it was the first large-scale event of its kind the group has put together. Jessica Stith, project manager for the Blount Memorial Foundation and Community Outreach, said the team had been working toward building an event like it for some time.
It was the kickoff to a substance abuse prevention and education campaign, and not only did they want it to be as large as possible, they wanted to reward the students for their choice to live a clean and healthy lifestyle. In fact, students weren’t even told about the event until several days after they signed the pledge.
“These are the kids that took a stand,” Stith said. “It’s all to make them feel like stars, because they made the good, healthy decisions. They are the stars.”
That’s why there was the red carpet, the balloon arches and the cameras. Then were was former University of Tennessee and NFL quarterback Erik Ainge, who took pictures with several of the students before speaking to the group about his history with substance abuse.
Before he came to Knoxville to play football for the University of Tennessee, he lived in Portland, Oregon. He talked about how at age 11 he started drinking and by 12, he was using drugs.
“I lived in the Blount County of Oregon,” Ainge said. “It was 20 minutes outside the city; there wasn’t really a lot to do.”
Crowds of hands went up when he asked how many knew someone who’s struggled with addition, many of them indicated they knew someone who had died from drinking and driving or a drug overdose. Ainge, 26, said as they grow older, they’ll know even more people who struggle with addiction.
“I used to live within the day,” Ainge said. “Having that attitude can be fun until the day that it’s not.” He added that he wasn’t going to tell them what to do. He only wanted to share his story and hope they take something of value away with them.
Among the students waiting to enter the theater were many of those who are members of the action team and helped make the event possible, Stith said. School resource officers, school health coordinators and those from area police departments, the Blount County District Attorney’s Office and Blount Memorial Hospital.
“Our coalition is represented by every sector in the community, basically,” Stith said. She added that the team hopes to plan an event for area freshmen and sophomores next semester.