Volunteer High School students signed up Friday for a new organization called "Fighting Teen Addiction" founded by senior Sydney Ross. (photo by Jeff Bobo)
(Scroll down for a photo gallery and video from Friday's 'Fighting Teen Addiction' launch.)
CHURCH HILL — Drug addiction often starts at a young age, which is why one Volunteer High School senior has created an organization to help encourage her classmates to stay off of drugs.
Sydney Ross set up a couple of tables outside the school cafeteria during every lunch period Friday soliciting schoolmates to sign up for her new organization called “Fighting Teen Addiction” (FTA).
Among the goals for the organization is to sponsor a drug coalition fair at VHS, and bring in law enforcement agencies, non-profit organizations and professional agencies that work on a daily basis with addicts an the affects of addiction.
“We are here to help educate students on alcohol and drug abuse, and give help to those who have family members, or themselves are addicted,” Ross said. “I work closely with my dad, and he founded the Hawkins County Drug Court (aka Recovery Court). I’ve seen it up close and personal with addiction — how it can affect families.
Ross added, “I just felt the need to start here. I felt it would be the next thing to do because I don’t want to see my peers go through that.”
Every week it seems like another Hawkins County teen or young adult is in trouble for either trafficking hard drugs, or committing burglary and theft to support a serious addiction.
Two weeks ago two 14-year-old girls and a 17-year-old boy were arrested in Surgoinsville under the influence of meth in a house where the drug was being manufactured. Two of those juveniles are students at Volunteer High School, while the other is from Virginia.
FTA already has quite a bit of support from outside the school. Among those who were on hand Friday to help Sidney Ross launch the organization were Sheriff Ronnie Lawson, Juvenile Judge Daniel Boyd, Alice Snodgrass who chairs of the Hawkins County Anti-Drug Coalition, and Hawkins County Sessions Judge J. Todd Ross, who also happens to be Sydney’s dad.
“All day long every day I see young people coming into my court who have been through juvenile court and they’ve turned 18 so now they’re coming into my court,” Judge Ross said. “If we can do anything here to help subside some of those things and reduce the amount of addiction among young people and young adults, I think that’s great.”
Judge Ross added, “If someone is having problems I feel like they’re a lot more likely to turn to someone here — a peer, a teacher, a counselor — than they are to come to Recovery Court or talk to a police officer. I think by offering services here to educate, and to have people here who can refer them out to other sources to get help, we’ll be more successful in that fight.”
On Friday 128 VHS students signed up for FTA, making it the largest student organization on campus in its first day.
Snodrass, a retired teacher, said she taught students who watched their parents, siblings, and maybe even grandparents use drugs on a daily basis.
For students in that situation, drug abuse is a normal way of life and those who abstain from drugs and alcohol are abnormal, Snodgrass noted.
“The earlier you can get this message to kids the better,” Snodgrass said. “I hate to admit this, but often times the root of a drug problem begins as early as middle school. I think every school needs and organization like this, and hopefully students in other schools will follow this example. It’s never too early to get these anti-drug messages and support groups out, and never too late for a person to make the right choice.”
Sydney Ross said she’s hoping the organization can reach fellow students before they make the wrong choice.
“It starts here,” Sydney Ross said. “Especially with addicts, they usually say they started at a young age — 14, 15. And then you just can’t stop when it begins. I think it’s very important for us to help educate high-schoolers to help our future.”