“I think kids have such a limited time to make quick choices and sometimes when they have peer pressure (thrusted) on them, with these kind of drugs, you do it once and you don’t recover,” said Denise Reilly, drug awareness chairwoman.
Panelists shared a similar perspective during the event Sunday at Kalahari.
Joey Supina, of the Sandusky Artisans Recovery Community Center, said it’s unfortunate when “a full life is taken away at such a young age.” He said he often sees people make one bad decision that ends up being their last one.
“You don’t even want to dance with the devil,” Supina added.
Several Edison juniors organized “It Takes a Village,” a panel on the opiate epidemic, as a graded, community-oriented project through a college-level social studies class taught by Joseph Collins. Those students were: Jillian Barker, Sarah Bursley, Briana Keysor, Vernon Kluding, Sam Lopez, Evan Nevills, Halle Patton, Kaylee Ries, Gabby Reiter and Joe Stoll.
Reilly, who teaches music at Edison Middle School and is the high school band director, knows about losing students to addiction. Emily K. Cooley, a 2015 graduate who died from a 2017 heroin overdose, was a majorette in the marching band.
“We lost her and another boy in the band, so it’s very close to home to the kids (who) are involved,” Reilly said. “As for Emily, she was a sparkling performer. She truly loved the band and being part of it as a majorette. She is missed by so many.”
Patton encouraged area organizations to contact her to start Emily’s Scholarship, intended to give “a future to those unwillingly impacted by drug addiction.”
“My thoughts are to start small for now and first have at least one scholarship in place at Edison and EHOVE, both schools she attended. It will be offered to students who have been unwillingly affected by the opioid crisis. From there the sky is the limit,” said Kim Barman, Cooley’s mother.
Reilly heard about the panel project through Reiter, one of her band students.
“I told her I have all the drug awareness brochures that she could put on their display table and we would be here to advise them or help them with whatever they would need,” said Reilly, who noted the Elks provides “all kinds of free literature” on the area drug crisis.
Becky Parcher, Norwalk Elks youth committee chairwoman, attended the panel.
“As Denise said, it’s a major thing that’s always hitting these students,” she said, referring to addiction and the pressure to use drugs.
The drugs in previous generations weren’t as automatically addictive or “as intense as it is now,” Parcher said. “Nowadays you try it once, you either die from it or you’re completely addicted.”
“It’s one and done,” Reilly added.
Barman, Cooley’s mother, said her daughter told her she knew she was addicted to heroin after only using it three times.
“I didn’t use to understand the physical effects that the heroin had on her and I didn’t use to understand the deep, dark place your mind goes to in active addiction either. Now I understand that more than ever. That insight and education have blessed me to be able to connect on a greater level with those struggling with mental health and/or substance use. That in turn has led to Em’s Angels being able to lead many others to treatment resources and then on to happy, healthy, productive lives,” added Barman, a nationally certified intervention specialist.
Em’s Angels is a non-profit organization to help people who are in active addiction or recovery.
“With the youth, you’ve got to look at all aspects — I mean, the positive and the negative and you want to steer the youth in the right direction. They are our leaders for tomorrow,” Parcher said.