Four Austintown students win Knights of Columbus contest

By Jordyn Grzelewski


When someone looks at a poster Brylee Covan created to raise awareness about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, the Austintown Intermediate School student hopes they will learn “that if you drink alcohol, some really bad things can happen to you.”

Brylee, a fifth-grade student, was among four winners in the school district of the Knights of Columbus’ Substance Abuse Awareness Poster Contest.

Of the more than 400 posters created by Austintown students, Brylee and Lana Gay were winners in the 8-11 age division. Middle-school students Cassidy Blessing and Luke Hlasta were winners in the 12-14 age division.

The program returned to Mahoning County this year thanks to a partnership between the Knights of Columbus’ local chapter and Coalition for a Drug-Free Mahoning County. Austintown was the first district in the county to participate in the contest. The winners will advance to the next round of poster competition and will receive gift cards.

Participants age 8-14 submitted entries, half about alcohol and half about drugs. Fifty posters selected as finalists were judged by police officers, prevention experts, local journalists and others in December.

The contest was intended to teach students about drug prevention, avoiding peer pressure and healthier ways of coping with negative emotions.

“We see young people succeed when they are taught skills, given an opportunity to use those skills and given recognition for what they have accomplished,” said Angela DiVito, coalition executive director. “This contest gives students a chance to show what they know about the dangers of substance use and to receive recognition for creative messages that can help others understand the dangers of substance use.”

Brylee’s poster depicted a woman waving her arms for help after a car accident. “If you want to drive, don’t drink and drive,” the caption says.

Lana’s tagline was, “Don’t make drugs apart of your story.”

Cassidy’s was: “It’s not as beautiful as it seems,” and Luke’s was, “Hitting the brake isn’t a piece of cake.”

At an awards presentation this week, Michael Jordon, Knights of Columbus Youngstown membership director, thanked teachers, parents and grandparents for instilling lessons about drugs and alcohol in children.

DiVito said those lessons should begin early in life.

“The importance of living a healthy, drug-free lifestyle should begin when children are very young,” she said. “Just as we teach children to use sunblock and to limit sugar intake, we should also teach them to stay drug-free. Defining our expectations to tweens and teens makes the expectation of avoiding alcohol and drugs as much a part of their routine as expectations about homework, curfew and hygiene.”

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