GALLIPOLIS — On Wednesday, the Gallia County Youth Coalition met at Haskins Park to prepare for an initiative that partners with the Gallipolis Municipal Swimming Pool.
“We like the pool being drug free,” Brett Bostic, who works for the city in recreation and code enforcement, said. “It’s always great to honor young people and get that message out to their peers. Eighty percent of our kids are drug-free.”
The Gallia County Youth Coalition is a youth-led group that promotes sober, drug-free living among youth. The coalition is supported by both Field of Hope and Health Recovery Services, which both serve as adult allies to the group.
The event was the first partnership with the city and one of the coalition’s first public initiatives to reach out to the community. For the event, youth created signs to be hung at the opening of the Gallipolis Municipal Swimming Pool.
The event was also the first in-person meeting of the Gallia Youth Coalition since the COVID-19 pandemic forced much of public life to stall.
“It’s nice to see everyone’s faces,” Chevy Barnes, a student from River Valley High School, said.
Previously, the coalition met online and over Zoom, a video-communication app.
“It was a lot harder [to meet online],” Barnes said, “but it got easier.”
According to Lisa Osborne, an adult ally with the group and employee for Health Recovery Services, members of the coalition were able to virtually attend a rally called We Are the Majority. The rally, which would have taken place in Columbus, was held online on Friday, May 19. The rally showed rural students that there are thousands of youths who live drug-free in the state of Ohio, Osborne said.
“It always made me sad that I had friends involved in drugs and juuling,” MacKenzie Long, a student at Gallia Academy High School, said. Juul is a brand of electronic cigarette that contains nicotine. “I thought if I got involved in this, it would give me a platform for me to show my peers that there’s a better path to choose than juuling and doing drugs.”
The coalition hopes to make positive change in the community, by celebrating a drug-free lifestyle for youths with the opening of the pool and by taking other initiatives in the community. Next, the group plans to provide resources like blankets and socks to Holzer Assisted Living.
“We have to start listening to our youth,” Osborne said. “We can make changes, but the youth have got to be involved.”
Other adult allies are proud of the group as well.
“We have to applaud the kids for taking initiative,” Bostic said. “Look around—our kids do a tremendous amount they don’t get credit for.”
The Gallia County Youth Coalition is open to any youth in Gallia County. Interested youth can contact the group through its Facebook and Instagram pages, or contact their school’s principals or counsellors for more information, Long said.
The Gallipolis Municipal Swimming Pool will open on Monday, June 15, 2020, at noon.
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Sharla Moody is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing from Gallipolis, Ohio. She is a graduate of River Valley High School and currently attends Yale University.