Close to two-thirds of students have tried alcohol by their senior year. About 50% of high school students have reported using marijuana, 40% have tried cigarettes and 20% of seniors have used prescription medication without a prescription, according to the Center for Disease Control.

The substance abuse prevention team at Cherokee-Etowah-DeKalb Mental Health Center is planning its annual Youth Prevention Conference for Wednesday, March 4, to help stop teen substance abuse in North Alabama.

This year’s speakers will include Nathan Harmon, founder of Your Life Speaks — a non-profit organization “dedicated to reaching the next generation” — and Tony Hoffman, founder and director of The Freewheel Project, which mentors youth through sports.

Junior and senior high school students from DeKalb County and Fort Payne City schools are invited to attend. The event will take place in the DeKalb County Schools Coliseum in Rainsville and will focus on vaping, tobacco, marijuana awareness and making “positive life choices.”

Prevention educator Daphne Stewart spoke to the Geraldine Town Council at its last meeting Monday, Jan. 13, asking for the town’s support.

“We’re going through an opioid crisis,” she said. “If we can get to [students] before they have a problem or have gotten hooked, then we’re kind of beating them to the punch.”

Stewart said by having the event in March, she hopes the lessons and warnings will still be in students’ minds during prom season.

“One of our speakers specifically talks about a fatal drunk driving crash that he was in,” she said.

With the large number of students expected to attend and having to pay for the speakers, Stewart said the center needs all the donations it can get.

“That’s what I’m here tonight for is to just ask you all to consider contributing toward [the conference] this year,” she said to the council.

Geraldine Mayor Chuck Ables said the council would discuss it and decide at the next council meeting in February.

To donate to the event, contact Hannah Chandler at 256-706-7804.

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