The first ever Drug Free. Hire Me!™ rally—a Tri-Rivers Career Center Initiative—drew more than 600 students to Founders Park in downtown Marion, Ohio, on a cool but sunny October 24th. The teens, holding Drug Free. Hire Me!™ signs, have pledged to live drug-free lifestyles. This event was a high-energy celebration of their commitment. It included student-led contests, county and city proclamations, interactive games, and impactful speeches.
“This rally and the students’ willingness to be drug tested and become role models and productive citizens, makes a statement about our area,” said event organizer, Ellen Messenger, director of communications for Tri-Rivers. “Marion and all of Ohio has been hard hit by the opiate crisis; we want to break the stigma and let everyone know that’s not who we are and that’s not what our future is about. These students are the change agents.”
Andrew Chwalik, co-owner and operator of Topped Ice Cream in downtown Marion, and the keynote speaker for the event, said it best when he told the teens:
“We all live in a connected world and every single one of us here will be making an impact. We are the future of this world and of this state, this city and this community. We are the ones making the change; making the future that we want to see. It is important that every one of you understands that. It starts right now. Make those positive decisions so that you can make our world a better place for all of us and our children and our children’s children.”
Chwalik armed the students with four ways to battle peer pressure:
• Find your values. Live a healthy lifestyle. Stick to your values for the rest of your life.
• Surround yourself with good people.
• Build your army of supporters. If you ever need support when making a big decision, reference your army of supporters. Let them mentor you so you can avoid negative peer pressure.
• Practice your courage. Get out of your comfort zone. Do something that helps build your courage.
Tri-Rivers’ 300 plus students, who belong to the Career Center’s Drug Free. Hire Me!™ club, were joined by students in Teen Institute clubs from Marion City, Pleasant, Elgin, River Valley, and Ridgedale schools, as well as students from Cardington-Lincoln in Morrow County.
“We started our Drug Free. Hire Me!™ club three years ago to encourage students to choose drug-free lifestyles in order to be prepared for employment and healthy productive lives. It is exciting to see all of these area students here today,” said Chuck Speelman, superintendent for Tri-Rivers.
Marion Mayor Scott Schertzer said, “It is imperative that an organized approach for a drug-free lifestyle is provided and encouraged for our high school students.”
County Commissioner Kerr Murray agreed, “As parents, educators, mentors, employers, healthcare professionals, law enforcement officials, faith and community leaders, we need to support drug prevention programs.”
Messenger said this event was made possible by tremendous community support and a cadre of volunteers. Sponsors included the Marion Community Foundation and OhioHealth. Partners included: Tri-Rivers Career Center, Teen Institute, OhioMeansJobs-Marion, City of Marion, Downtown Marion, County of Marion, Marion City Police Department/MPACT and area schools.
B.J. Gruber, police lieutenant/public information office/MPACT coordinator told the students he was proud of all of them for taking this step.”
“I’ve been in Marion almost 15 years and have never been more proud in participating in an event than I was in the Drug Free Rally,” said Ron Meade, Workforce Development & Supportive Services Administrator, Marion County Job and Family Services.
“For us as students, this event allowed us to take pride in being drug free and to show everyone who we are and that we are taking responsibility for our actions,” said Kristina Lee, a Tri-Rivers Construction Trades Academy/Criminal Justice student and one of the three emcees for the event, along with Max Russell in Tri-Rivers’ RAMTEC Engineering Technologies and Andrew Schoppelrei, in Computer Networking Electronics Technologies.
Chwalik thanked the teens for being the change and “starting your journey to make our world a better place. Your story starts now and this is chapter one. Go!”
More event photos on facebook.