PRESTONSBURG - Regional winners for the elementary, middle and high school UNITE Club of the Year and UNITE substance abuse counselor of the year awards, were recognized Thursday, August 30, during a "Uniting To Serve" youth summit held at The Mountain Arts Center.
"Here in Eastern Kentucky, we've had hundreds of people lose their lives to drug abuse because they made poor choices," Fifth District Congressman Harold "Hal" Rogers told more than 900 youth and adult sponsors from 51 schools in 13 counties attending Thursday's awards presentation. "Your work is important because you can influence your friends and family to make good choices and to believe in themselves."
Regional UNITE Club winners were from Estill Springs Elementary in Estill County, Clearfield Elementary in Rowan County, Paintsville Elementary from Johnson County, Rowan County Middle, Roy G. Eversole Middle in Hazard, Whitesburg Middle in Letcher County, and Shelby Valley High School of Pike County
Regional substance abuse counselor winners were Tara Robinson from Pike County, Cindy Kerns from Rowan County, and Mary Bruce Mosley from Harlan County.
UNITE's 35 substance abuse counselors "serve on the front lines" to ensure early intervention for those who are, or will, experience substance abuse problems, Rogers noted.
Helping present the awards was Rogers' wife Cynthia.
"It is never too early to learn about the terrible toll drugs take on families and communities," said Mrs. Rogers. If each of you is able to reach just one friend about the dangers of drugs, then your time has been well spent."
"You are our future leaders for the great commonwealth of Kentucky," she told the students. "The projects you do today will have an impact in preparing for the drug-free generation we intend to have years from now."
Each of these clubs and counselors, along with regional winners announced during a second youth summit in Somerset August 29, are eligible for Club of the Year honors at the UNITE Education Conference scheduled for Friday, November 9, in Pikeville.
During the 2006-07 school year there were 98 registered UNITE Clubs with more than 5,300 youth members in the 29-county Fifth Congressional District.
"Make no mistake, you are all leaders and I commend you for your courage and commitment," Rogers said. "You have a tremendous job in front of you to change how your community views drug abuse. But, if anyone's up to the challenge, you are."
The youth summits were designed to motivate elementary, middle and high school students to become leaders in their schools and communities, said Karen Engle, UNITE president and CEO. "We want to equip youth leaders with the skills and knowledge to enhance existing anti-drug programs and provide them networking opportunities for the sharing of ideas."
Morning workshops included inspirational anti-drug presentations by South Central Kentucky Kids on the Block and the Somerset-based band Live Fish. These sessions let students know they were not alone when faced with situations involving drugs and alcohol, whether at school or at home.
Luncheon keynote speaker Ty Sells, is a certified prevention specialist with Youth to Youth International in Columbus, Ohio.
Sells, who has been involved with youth for the past 27 years, presented a comical discussion called "The Power of Acceptance." He challenged students to examine the way they treat others who are "different" and explored the consequences of making decisions based upon what is "cool" for today.
Schools attending the Prestonsburg Youth Summit, by county, were:
Breathitt - Breathitt County High; Estill - Estill County High, Estill County Middle, Estill Springs Elementary, West Irvine Elementary; Floyd - Allen Central High, Allen Central Middle, Betsy Layne Elementary, Betsy Lane High, Duff Elementary, Mays Valley Elementary, Stumbo Elementary; Harlan - Cumberland Elementary, Evarts High, James A. Cawood High; Johnson - Paintsville Elementary; Knott - Beaver Creek Elementary, Carr Creek Elementary, Hindman Elementary, Knott County High; Leslie - Hayes Lewis Elementary, Hyden Elementary, Leslie County High, Leslie County Middle, Stinnett Elementary; Letcher - Fleming Neon Elementary, Martha J. Potter School, Whitesburg Middle; Magoffin - John T. Arnett Elementary; Perry - Buckhorn School, Robinson Elementary, Roy G. Eversole Elementary; Pike - Belfry High, Belfry Middle, Dorton Junior High, East Ridge High, Elkhorn City Elementary, Feds Creek Elementary, Johns Creek Elementary, Kimper Elementary, Majestic Elementary, Mullins Elementary, Phelps Elementary, Phelps High, Pike County Central High, Shelby Valley High; Rowan - Clearfield Elementary, Rowan County Middle, Virgie Middle; and Wolfe - Rogers Elementary, Wolfe County High.
For more information about Operation UNITE visit their website at www.operationunite.org
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In 2003, Fifth District Congressman Harold "Hal" Rogers (R-Somerset) worked to create Operation UNITE, a regional anti-drug initiative empowering citizens groups and community leaders in 29 southern and eastern Kentucky counties. UNITE, which stands for Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment & Education, seeks to fight the drug epidemic by expanding drug awareness and education programs to keep people from using drugs; coordinating drug treatment and outreach programs for those who are already addicted; and operating regional undercover law enforcement task forces for interdiction and prosecution of those dealing drugs. Rogers has directed $33.1 million in federal funds to the counter-drug initiative over the past four years. For more information contact Karen Engle toll-free at 1-866-678-6483.
Drug Tip Hotline - 1-866-424-4382 / Treatment Referral Hotline - 1-866-90-UNITE (1-866-908-6483)