Good deeds can be done at any age, and one young Berks Countian, at just 16, is beginning to make her mark on the world.
"It's something that isn't talked about, and I think it's swept under the rug," Abby White, a Wilson High School junior, said of addiction. "Sometimes, I think people are scared to talk about it just because of the gravity of the issue and they're scared that we're too young."
Too young to die, too young to make a decision that jeopardizes their future, but sadly not too young for addiction.
Abby talks about it anywhere and everywhere. She creates a safe space for conversation, the kind of conversation that saves lives.
"It's not always the most popular opinion, which I've struggled with, especially as a freshman," she said. "You know, you're at the bottom of the totem pole and no one really wants to hear you talk about it, but you just have to fight for what you love and what you're passionate about, and eventually, people will listen."
Abby has teens listening. She's the founder of Clean Teens, a club and official chapter of SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions). It gives kids and teens a way to stay drug- and alcohol-free.
"You're not always going to reach everyone, but you know, the domino effect starts it going. Slowly but surely, more and more kids start to recognize the program," said Joel Dries, Clean Teens' teacher adviser.
"We started off and it was just me, and now I can say we have over 60 members," Abby said. "On our Instagram account, we have over 1,300 followers."
Clean Teens believes in positive reinforcement and teaches kids refusal skills, how to say no.
"I think the big reason they do say yes to those harmful activities is because they're scared of losing a friend, so by offering them to come with you and picking an alternate activity, I think it's a great way to get yourself, as well as the other person, out of the situation," Abby said.
There is strength in numbers. When Abby was in eighth grade, she was part of Kid to Kid, a peer mentoring program that teaches elementary students about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. There was no club like it at the high school, so Abby started her own.
The drive to educate comes from seeing the destruction of addiction first hand.
"Really recently, my father just came out as an alcoholic, and he's been getting that, so it just shows that it can really happen to anyone," Abby said.
As is often the case, addiction has family ties. In 2004, she lost her uncle to an overdose.
"I think what she does so very well, Abby does, is that she lets other people know that no matter what age, size, color, income level, social status, anybody can be affected by this, and she has a great way of talking to people," said Allison White, Abby's mother. "She's not afraid to say what she thinks, and she's kind about it."
"I think most important is to know who you are and what choices you want to make, and by doing that and finding a friend that also shares those beliefs, then you can make the right decision," Abby said. "That's the point of Clean Teens. We just want to make sure that we have a group that is welcoming and making sure we know we have each other's back."
Reading residents who want to get their cars off the snow-covered streets can now park for free in some center city garages.Read More »
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