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Giving students 'reason to say 'no''

Cary Ashby • Sep 7, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Norwalk Middle School (NMS) Principal Gary Swartz said supporting the Drug Free Clubs of America is a way to empower students to say they can’t and won’t do drugs.

“We are trying to give the kids a reason to say ‘no,’” he said. “The best way to look at it is we’re trying to stop the bleeding.”

Wayne Campbell, whose oldest son Tyler died of an overdose in 2011, spoke at assemblies at NMS, Norwalk High School and EHOVE Career Center this week.

His message included the emphasis of Drug Free Clubs of America (DFCA) being a way to give students “an out” from doing drugs because club members are subject to random drug screens. Also Campbell said telling a friend, parent, guardian and/or coach about suspected drug usage doesn’t make you a “narc” or snitch, but is a way to help that person.

Norwalk City Schools, EHOVE and Norwalk Catholic School are partnering with the community and area businesses to establish DFCA, a new drug prevention program, with the potential to impact more than 2,300 students. The Norwalk Economic Development Corp. supports the initiative. Executive director Heather Horowitz made an informational presentation to the Norwalk city school board in March.

“Our three schools selected Drug Free Clubs of America because it is a pro-active, student-led option to help address the issue of drug use in our community,” EHOVE Assistant Director Matt Ehrhardt said. “We saw a need to provide students with more opportunities to make the right choices and recognize their impact as a student and as part of the workforce. DFCA supports those goals because it is based on positive reinforcement and positive outcomes.”

Campbell presented several short videos during his assembly Thursday at the middle school. One listed the top six reasons that teenagers try drugs: 1) Peer pressure, 2) escaping problems, 3) appeal (the large amount of music videos and movies that depict drug usage, giving the illusion of instant gratification), 4) emotional problems, 5) curiosity or boredom and 6) rebellion.

Several students said peer pressure being the No. 1 reason “fits perfectly” while others said emotional problems should be ranked higher. 

Just as teenagers don’t have to follow the same career paths as their their parents, Campbell told the NMS students they don’t have to follow their path if they use drugs.

“You do have that choice,” he said. “If they are using drugs, it’s going to be tough to break that cycle.”  

Campbell addressed how difficult it is facing peer pressure.

“It’s hard to say no to your friends because they keep badgering you,” he said.

As a freshman football player at the University of Akron, Cambell’s son Tyler played against The Ohio State University. He played full time as a sophomore, had shoulder surgery in the off-season and was prescribed Vicodin for pain. Campbell said his family eventually started noticing Tyler was acting differently, didn’t call home as much, was hanging around a different group of college friends and declined to be with his family during a campus visit.

The family finally sent Tyler to rehab, only to come face-to-face with a tragedy. The young man overdosed and died in his room the day after he came home.

“The best day was when he came home and the worst day was the next day, when he died,” Campbell said.

Since his son’s death, Campbell has started Tyler’s Light, which provides “drug education and awareness for students, families and communities.”

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