Pubdate: Sun, 05 Aug 2012
Source: Bluefield Daily Telegraph (WV)
Copyright: 2012 Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Author: Greg Jordan


TAZEWELL, Va. - One billboard shows a basketball player leaping for
the hoop. Another features high school students wearing college
sweatshirts, but a conspicuous gap shows that one of them is gone.
There is also a billboard showing a basketball team that's missing a
member. All of the billboards convey the same message: What could you
lose if you abuse drugs?

Sharon Kitts of Substance Abuse Taskforce in Rural Appalachia (SATIRA)
attended a press conference Aug. 3 concerning a revised Virginia law
prohibiting the possession and distribution of synthetic marijuana, a
dangerous substance often presented in colorful packaging featuring
cartoon characters designed to appeal to young people. Educating local
students about the dangers synthetic marijuana presents is among the
actions SATIRA is taking in Tazewell County, she said.

Tazewell County's teens are taking action against illicit drugs
already by helping design local billboards and posing for them.

Outside near the Tazewell County Sheriff's Office, Kitts pointed out
one of several new billboards erected recently throughout the county.
It features basketball player Noah Walker of Tazewell County High
School making a basket. The design is one of several anti-drug
billboard designed by the county's high school students.

Kitts and Commonwealth's Attorney Dennis Lee sat down at a small park
in downtown Tazewell to talk about the new project. Kitts collected
her thoughts.

"We actually have right now, how many billboards featuring local
students? Two, three, five? We've got one down here at the Little
League field that's different from this one. We've got two in
Richlands, one at Graham (High School in Bluefield, Va.) and then we
just put four of these in Tazewell, so we've got a bunch of billboards
out right now," Kitts said.

The owner of the billboard spaces, Carl Harry, donated them in order
to help get the anti-drug message out, Lee said. Lamar Advertising is
renting out the other billboards "at a good rate," he added.

"In each of the towns, it is students from that high school who
participate and come up with their own ideas," Lee said.

The students designed billboards illustrating what they could lose if
they started using drugs. Some feature bands, cheerleading squads or
teams missing a member. In one at Graham High School, seniors wore
sweatshirts from the colleges they hope to attend: a blank symbolizes
a student who will not attend college because of drug abuse.

"And it means something to them because they designed it," Kitts

Drug forfeiture funds the county receives to fund drug-awareness
programs pays for the billboard project, Lee said. No local tax
dollars are used.

The hope now is to continue the project as new students enter high

"Yes, we always want to keep things fresh and change things up," Lee
said. "We want to keep it sort of cutting edge as much as possible. We
may have different ideas, but we feel it is important to get kids
involved in the program, invested in trying to prevent drug abuse. We
hope to see the results of that in years to come."
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