Last Friday, a large donation of $30,000 was given to Lumen Christi schools in Mahoning County to begin a different approach to drug abuse prevention. The funds were donated by the Mahoning Valley Hospital Foundation to Lumen Christi schools for materials and instructions on the new program. It was part of a joint effort between MVHF, Drug Awareness and Prevention Inc., and Lumen Christi.
''Three years ago I got involved in local issues and found that Ohio is one of the few states that doesn't advocate for drug abuse programs in the schools,'' said Michael Senchak, president and CEO of MVHF. ''Until Ohio takes up the effort, it is up to each school district to do something. We have to start substance abuse at an early age.''
The grant that Senchak gave the schools will help set up a program that deals with drug abuse from kindergarten through 12th grade. It provides training and materials for science teachers to use to teach the students what happens in the body and brain when a person uses drugs and becomes addicted.
Photo by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Coalition for a Drug Free Mahoning County board members Michael Senchak, left, and Dave Stewart present a check for $30,000 to Lumen Christi President and CEO Dr. Lois Cavucci, Mary Fiala, assistant superintendent of curriculum for the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown, and Nancy Pommerening, executive director of Drug Awareness Prevention. The funds came from the Mahoning Valley Hospital Foundation, which Senchak serves as president and CEO.
Nancy Pommerening, executive director for Drug Awareness Prevention, said the her agency will provide the services to help train science teachers at each grade level in Lumen Christi schools, which include Holy Family, St. Charles, Immaculate Heart of Mary, St. Luke, St. Christine and St. Joseph Immaculate Heart of Mary schools in the Town Crier coverage area.
''Around 7,000 students will be impacted from this $30,000 grant,'' she said. ''Keeping it going is the key.''
The science teachers in Lumen Christi schools will receive the training on incorporated drug abuse awareness through their science lessons. Each grade will have age appropriate lessons where the students will use science to see what drugs do to the body and brain. The program will start at the kindergarten level and continue all the way through a student's senior year.
Younger students will be learning things such as the amazing brain, sending and receiving messages through the brain and what addiction is. Older students will participate in sessions like drugs in the cupboard, neurons-chemistry-and neurotransmission, and legal doesn't mean harmless.
The whole program will become part of the classroom curriculum and is expected to have a positive impact on the students as they grow.
Lumen Christi schools will also document the program so it can be presented at the state level, in hopes of making it a statewide program for all schools. Pommerening said even local businesses are getting behind this effort.
''Walgreens decided this was so important, they donated binders and labor to put them together for the program,'' she said. ''They also offered to have their pharmacists speak to the science classes.''
The key to the program is continuing the education in every grade, every year. By keeping the devastating effects of drug abuse before the students, they will find it easier to say no to drugs and addiction.
Dr. Lois Cavucci, president and CEO of Lumen Christi said, ''How could anyone say no to the money to fund this great cause.''
Senchak said he doesn't want it to stop with just Lumen Christi schools. He said the door is open to any district.
''Next year, Youngstown Christian schools said they would like to begin the program,'' Senchak said. ''I offered it to Canfield schools as well, but have not heard back from them yet. Any school district that wants to join this effort, I will gladly give them the money to fund it.''