Article by Program Coordinator Ally Bergmann

Fifty students from every public high school in the county attended leadership training from Dec 2-3 at DaySpring Conference Center to address substance abuse and mental health problems at their schools

Drug Free Manatee hosted high school students from across the county at DaySpring Episcopal Conference Center in Parrish in order to teach them leadership skills to address problems in their schools.

Initially, the training was supposed to be held September 16-17, but because of Hurricane Irma, the training was rescheduled to December 2-3.

During the 1.5-day-training, students learned about the You’re Not Alone program, gaining valuable knowledge regarding mental health. They developed an action plan for addressing substance abuse or mental health issues in their schools using a prevention tool called Strategic Prevention Framework, or SPF.

Braden River, Lakewood Ranch, Manatee, and Palmetto high schools all identified vaping as a serious problem in their schools. State College of Florida Collegiate School and Southeast High School both identified depression, stress, and anxiety as the issue(s) they are going to address this year on campus.

Bayshore High School identified many areas of concern and have decided that their best course of action is to build stakeholder capacity and promote the Drug Free Youth program, or D-Fy, encouraging their peers to be free of alcohol and other drugs.

The students worked hard, learned a lot, and on Saturday night, they were treated to a special presentation by local fitness expert, D-FY business partner, and person in recovery, Matthew Eaton of Eaton Elite Fitness. First, Matt shared his family’s compelling story of addiction and recovery and then he led everyone in an amazing evening of team-building fun, including a game of Capture the Flag. It was definitely the highlight of the weekend for the students!

Students left the training, action plans in hand, ready to tackle the substance abuse and mental health issues in their schools with plenty of support from their faculty advisors and Drug Free Manatee.

Click here to see a complete photo album of the training!