School says “no” to drugs and “yes” to positive influences

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Neighbors | Zack Shively.Cardinal Mooney High School designed the Yes Fest as a way to promote a positive, healthy lifestyle without drugs use. Speaker Lt. Jered Sutton, Canfield Post Commander for the Highway State Patrol, gave the students information and statistics about drug use and drug-related deaths. Pictured, Sutton demonstrated how many people die in car crashes in a given year, represented by those standing, in comparison to the number of drug-related deaths, represented by the near 100 other students in the room.

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Neighbors | Zack Shively.Cardinal Mooney made a banner for their Yes Fest, which the students signed. They also had a number of shirts made for the students to wear during the event. Pictured, the students had some fun during their Yes Fest with a gaga pit in the gymnasium.

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Neighbors | Zack Shively.The agencies in Cardinal Mooney's gym for their Yes Fest ranged from animal shelters to nursing homes to Mill Creek MetroParks. Pictured, the students gathered around to watch their friend use the Highway State Patrol's distracted driving simulator, where the student attempted to drive and send a text message at the same time.

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Neighbors | Zack Shively.Don Slocum talked to the Cardinal Mooney students about his struggles with drug addiction and how he has found new meaning in the form of service. He told the students that if they get addicted to drugs, it's a battle they will deal with for the rest of their lives.

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Neighbors | Zack Shively.Cardinal Mooney High School had their annual Yes Fest at the school on April 11. The festival featured three speakers in the auditorium and 40 agencies in the gymnasium. Pictured, Guy Bernie, Director of the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence, spoke to the Mooney students about drug addiction.

by ZACK SHIVELY

zshively@vindy.com

Cardinal Mooney High School had their annual Yes Fest in the gymnasium and auditorium to promote a positive lifestyle on April 11.

The program aimed to get students to say no to drugs and say yes to other positive opportunities in their lives. The event featured three speakers in the auditorium and 40 agencies in the gym.

“We want the students to stay away from drugs and get involved in the community,” said Ruth Mastriana, one of the three staff members on the Yes Fest Committee. “It’s a great opportunity for the kids to know what the community offers.”

The committee features 35 students and three staff members. Students apply to be a part of the committee and the staff chooses who they feel will be the best candidates for the group. On the day of the event, the students welcomed all visitors at the doorway and assisted the staff in making sure all speakers and agencies had everything they needed.

The agencies in the gym ranged from mental health centers, such as Alta Behavioral Healthcare and Neil Kennedy Recovery Clinic, to law enforcement, such as the Youngstown Police Department and the Mahoning Valley Drug Task Force, to animal organizations, such as the Humane Society Animal Charity and Angels for Animals, among many others.

Having those 40 organizations in the gym allowed the students to see the opportunities for service in the community. The students seemed to enjoy their time in the gym, as they got to exercise, pet animals and learn more about their community.

The school invited the YMCA, which brought in workout materials, such as stretch bands, for the students to use. They had boxing gloves for students to exercise and push themselves.

The ODOT spokesman Brent Kovacs and Ohio Highway Patrol trooper Dan DeLuca brought a driving simulator to the school to show how distractions impair driving. Students took turns trying to text and drive in the simulator without making any infractions.

DeLuca said they highway patrol will use the simulator in other school assemblies to show the dangers of drunk driving and distracted driving. Kovacs brought a number of information based pamphlets with him to show the statistics on teenage driving incidents and incidents caused by distractions. He said that texting and driving is more dangerous than drinking and driving and poses a serious hazard for young drivers, who tend to be more likely to text and drive.

Lt. Jered Sutton, the Canfield Post Commander for the Highway State Patrol, Guy Bernie, the Director of the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence, and Donald Slocum, also with the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence, spoke to students in the auditorium. They began with an exercise and then talked individually.

Bernie and Sutton led the students through an activity called “43 Seconds to Addiction.” The exercise gave a representation to the students about the dangers of addiction. They handed out sheets of paper, which the students ripped into 12 pieces.

They wrote three people dear to them, three possessions they admire, three activities they enjoy and three personal attributes they like about themselves using the 12 pieces. Bernie and Sutton walked the students through an example of addiction and had the them tear a piece of paper until they were left with just one piece left. It showed how drugs can cause people to lose the things they love.

After the game, Bernie explained the game to the students and what it represented. Then, Sutton gave statistics on overdoses in the state. He said the Highway Patrol has shifted its view from traffic violations to making a stand against the drug crisis in the state.

He had a small number of students stand in the front of the stage. He explained that these would be representative of the number of vehicular deaths in the state in a given year. The other students in the room, a significantly higher number, represented the deaths due to drugs in the year. He told the students some things they can do to help end the drug crisis as well.

Finally, Slocum spoke about his life and struggles with addiction. He is a two time convicted felon and recovering addict. He explained that he is only now starting to get his life on track. He warned the students that addiction is “a battle for the rest of your life.”

He made a transition into what makes him feel fulfilled today: service. He spends his free time volunteering and helping his neighbors. He urged the students to make responsible decisions for a positive lifestyle.

Mooney celebrates their Yes Fest yearly. They had shirts made up and signed a banner for the event. They reach out to approximately 60 agencies every year. Organizations interested in joining Mooney’s 2019 Yes Fest can contact the school at the phone number 330-788-5007.

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