Students hope to prevent substance abuse through awareness week

Elina Bishoyi | The Chronicle

Sritanvi Gottummukkla shared information with students at the Red Ribbon Week
booth about the effects of substance-abuse on teenagers.

Mason High School (MHS) students were smoking out the high school substance abuse epidemic with Red Ribbon Week.

According to the Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Warren County, 21.7% of students in Warren County reported using electronic vapor products during the 2021-22 school year. In order to combat this rise, MHS students interning with the Warren County Health Department organized Red Ribbon Week to promote substance-abuse awareness. 

On October 24 and October 28 during all MHS lunches, the student interns set up a booth with games, prizes and information to educate the students of MHS about the negative effects of using drugs and other substances, especially during high school.

Sophomore Isha Mantha is an intern working with the Warren County Health Department and said that she believes her experience educating students at Red Ribbon Week will assist her in a future career in law and advocacy. Mantha said that she appreciated the opportunity to interact with her peers to discuss the important social issue of substance abuse.

“As a teenager educating a teenager, [Red Ribbon Week] is so much more effective than if it was just [adults] doing it,” Mantha said. “I feel like it adds a personal connection.”

Senior Sritanvi Gottumukkla said she has always been interested in the healthcare field and found this internship to be an effective way to give back to the community and meet new people motivated towards accomplishing their goal of drug and tobacco-use prevention. 

The students received guidance from Steve Brady, an assistant professor at The Ohio State University and chair of the Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition (SAPC) of Warren County,  a local organization created with the goal of preventing substance abuse around the community.  Growing up, Brady was exposed to health hazards with smokers in his own family, which he said motivated him to pursue advocacy related to substance abuse prevention. Brady said he wanted to help the movement to prevent students from going down the path of substance abuse.

“My father smokes,” Brady said. “Growing up in a household where that was common and sitting in the backseat of a car when the smoke was rolling back was not very pleasant. I definitely want to prevent other people from experiencing that.”

The internship gave students the opportunity to gain a deep understanding of substance abuse and volunteer to help safely dispose of medication at Kroger. Brady said he had a positive experience working with the interns.

“[The interns] have a lot of energy to try to address the problems or issues that are happening either in school or in the community,” Brady said. “This internship has been very good about helping students look at those problems, particularly vaping and tobacco use, and how to affect change here in the school.”

Gottummukkla said that she hoped her efforts in Red Ribbon Week made a difference in helping other students prevent and overcome addiction. She said that her goal is for Red Ribbon Week to continue at MHS, even after she graduates. 

“I just hope students know what the consequences are,” Gottummukkla said. “I want to help students stop [substance abuse] before it’s too late.”

Photo by Elina Bishoyi