BBBS partnering with WVU School of Public Health; Charleston to host Icelandic solutions to drug addiction
CHARLESTON, WV – Along with other local and statewide organizations, Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central West Virginia is pleased to co-sponsor the “Day of Introspection,” an event for the community to hear from health and policy leaders on effective ways to address the ongoing concern of drug addiction in West Virginia.
The event will be held at three different locations on Monday, Feb. 26:
8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Riverside High School Auditorium (free and open admittance)
11:45 to 1:00 p.m. Charleston Civic Center – Rotary Club meeting room
1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Capital High School Auditorium (free and open admittance)
Each session will offer evidence-based, effective solutions and is specifically catered to address generational addiction and the essential need for community collaboration.
“Our state, our people, and especially our children are facing what may be the greatest catastrophe in our 155-year history,” said Sara McDowell, the executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central West Virginia. “The drug epidemic is killing our friends, our neighbors, colleagues and family, and the collateral damage of drug addiction is destroying entire communities.”
The primary speaker at each session is Dr. Alfgeir Kristjansson, an influential individual at West Virginia University’s School of Public Health. Krisjansson will discuss his efforts that virtually eliminated teenage drug, alcohol, and tobacco use in his home country. The Icelandic native emphasizes the importance of proactive collaboration, rather than reactive intervention. His work also recognizes the essential need for teens to feel valued and productive members of their community, rather than a burden to it.
The local Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliate finds its proven mentoring programs closely align with many of the proposals offered by Kristjansson. Research confirms that a positive mentor provides children with the confidence to make competent decisions. They are less likely to engage in defiant, risky behavior, and more likely to achieve academic success. One in three children lack a positive role model in their life.
“Positive outcomes can be achieved when children feel accepted, connected, and protected within their community,” McDowell said. “We have too many kids on our waiting list and they not only need mentors, but they want the guidance a caring mentor can provide.”
McDowell added that while financial support from the private sector is critical to their mission, it’s companies like Thrasher Engineering that can provide something equally important: employee time to mentor.
“It’s important the private sector embrace not only the culture of mentoring within the corporate structure, but to allow employees to engage our youth through mentoring,” said Clay Riley, Vice President of Business Development at Thrasher Engineering. “Studies show that not only does it help our kids, but it’s good for business too.”
Riley went on to say businesses that allow their employees to mentor provide more than just role models. A mentor can be a positive influence and introduce youth to career paths they may not otherwise consider – especially older youth who fall into the underemployed category.
McDowell added that employees who mentor feel they are part of something larger; it creates a direct connection between the private sector and the community.
Krisjansson’s emphasis on mentoring directly correlates with the mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters and provides evidence of the positive outcomes. With the strategies of Krisjansson in place alongside community engagement and collaboration, West Virginia can combat teen drug, alcohol, and tobacco usage: one child and one mentor at a time.
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About Big Brothers Big Sisters
Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central West Virginia provides children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever. Their mentoring programs are proven to help children improve academically, socially and avoid risky behaviors.
The organization depends on corporate, private and grant funding to enhance and develop programs, help recruit volunteers, provide training and ongoing support for children, families and volunteers to build and sustain long-lasting relationships. www.BigLittleWV.org