Boardman High School teamed up with Chick-fil-A to bring a special event to the students last week. On Tuesday, Nov. 26, students took part in the Yes Fest, which is a shift of gears from the "Just Say No" program.
"We've been saying no forever," said BHS Principal Jared Cardillo. "Now it's time to take it to the next level and tell students what they can say yes to."
Cardillo said the idea for a Yes Fest was brought before a student-community committee. He was accompanied by Assistant Principal Cindy Fernback and Karen Campbell, who were also involved in coming up with the idea. Cardillo said it just took off from that point.
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Boardman High School junior Alex Fink, and seniors Ramar Navarro, Katherine Terry, and Richard Steiner put the finishing touches on a blanket for Making Kids Count. The organization was among the 40 nonprofits that offered a positive choice for students. The blanket the students completed will be placed in a comfort kit and will be given to a child entering the foster care system in Mahoning County.
The Yes Fest was set for Tuesday, Nov. 26 and began with students hearing the message of two parents who each lost a son to a drug overdose. Anna Howells and Angelo Martino were the emotional guest speakers who told their stories to students assembled in the Boardman Performing Arts Center.
Martino spoke first and told students how his son, Angelo Martino Jr., had been involved in an auto accident and was prescribed oxycontin. His son became addicted and in August of 2012, he died from a drug overdose. Martino said that telling his story may help students stay on the right path.
"This is not a dress rehearsal," he told students. "It is the hope of all of us at Boardman High School that this Yes Fest will show you students that you are important and needed."
Howells told the story of her son, Dennis, who would have been 30 years old this year and was a BHS graduate. She said he began drinking at age 13 and later progressed to oxycontin and then heroin.
"I remember the first time I found a needle in 2004," she said.
Howells told students her son had been through rehab many times and that relapses are a part of the disease of drug abuse.
"My son told me once that his heart, mind, and soul all want the drug," she said. "He told me when you can't get the drug, it is like being held under water. You'll do anything to get the drugs."
She said her son was stealing and lying to his own family members. His addiction became worse and on June 5 of this year, he died from an overdose.
"Addiction has mercy for no one. It can swallow you up," Howells said. "It's time to say yes to life."
The third speaker for the Yes Fest event was David Kohout from Talk Is Cheap. He said he went down the path of drugs, but had turned his life around and now devotes himself to making a difference in other's lives. Kohout captured students' attention as he told the story of Chris Sutton, who died from brain cancer in 1999. The end message was that people should be a positive force in life and help one another.
At the end of the talk, the students then left BPAC and headed to the school gymnasium where more than 40 booths were set up. The booths involved a lot of volunteer opportunities in which students can get involved, as well as some medical booths that offered ways of dealing with stress. Cardillo said it was 40-plus opportunities to which students could say yes.
One of the booths was the Boardman Park display staffed by the park's Recreation Director Karen McCallum. She came with a sign-up sheet for volunteer opportunities at the park. Before the morning sessions were over, she already had a full sheet and was working on a second one as students signed up to help at the park.
Cardillo said the message was clear. For years, students have been told what to say no to, but now were being shown all things to to which they can say yes.
"The Yes Fest is a commitment to inviting the positive into our lives," he said. "We want our students to 'just say no' to the negative influences around them and to say 'yes' to positive opportunities. It is the hope of Boardman High School that this day will remind students that they are important, they are needed and they can make a difference."
Students who signed the Yes Pledge during the week of Nov. 18 received a free T-shirt courtesy of Chick-fil-A and X-Pert Designs to wear to the Yes Fest.