Presented along with the lively entertainment of dance performances, the sounds of guitar music, free food and prizes at the Ohio County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition's Make a Splash at the Port event this week was an important message for Ohio Valley youth: You can have fun without drugs or alcohol.
The youth of OCSAPC gathered at the port's amphitheater to raise awareness about substance abuse prevention. About 15 members from the Substance Prevention Leadership Alliance of Students Harboring Hope, or SPLASH, created the concept for OCSAPC's annual town hall meeting.
"We wanted to organize something fun, something different that people could enjoy while learning," said Jenifer Canas, 17, of Wheeling. "We wanted to keep their attention while also teaching them."
Photo by Sarah Harmon
Lori Garrett-Bumba, program director of Ohio County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, and Jenifer Canas, 17, of Wheeling enjoy the festivities of OCSPAC’s Make a Splash event with music and dance performances at Heritage Port.
Canas participated in the National Youth Leadership Initiative, a week-long training for youth and their advisers to learn to be more effective in community change, and was involved in planning the SPLASH event.
"It's something everyone can get involved in, not just younger people," Canas said. "Although it's important to start prevention before high school, because drug abuse is starting younger."
More than 50 youths and their parents gathered on the amphitheater's steps to watch performances by singer Justin Yoho and by rap/hip hop duo Youngest N Charge. One member of the planning committee, Zhanterra Smith, also performed at the event with her hip hop dance group Velocity Dancers. Ron Scott, a Bridges counselor at Wheeling Park High School, and Mz. New York, a hip hop artist/life coach and public speaker, served as emcees at the event.
"This is not your typical town hall meeting. We let the kids run it and develop it this year. They wanted performances with substance prevention mixed in," said Lori Garrett-Bumba, program director of OCSAPC. "We're excited about the turnout this year. We've never had this many people - it's overwhelming."
OCSAPC is a local organization of concerned community members that aims to eliminate substance abuse in Ohio County, especially among young people, through numerous prevention activities and events throughout the year. Youth-oriented activities include events such as Sticker Shock, in which youth will go to local businesses and put warning stickers on alcohol products.
"OCSAPC is here to teach young folks that they don't need drugs or alcohol. You can have fun without substances," Garrett-Bumba said.