Five Santa Margarita Catholic High School students recently had the opportunity to attend the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America National Leadership Forum in Washington D.C with members of Drug Use is Life Abuse and representatives from the Orange County Sheriff's Department.
Seniors Edward Hunter, Bradley Smith, and Koleman Johnson and juniors Noelle Kendall and Carly Desmond attended the four-day conference which took place Feb. 2-6.
For twenty-two years, high school students from Orange County have had the opportunity to attend the National Leadership Forum. The four-day conference is packed with multiple opportunities to learn the latest strategies to fight substance abuse and hear from nationally-known experts and policymakers. The forum brings together more than 2,500 participants representing community anti-drug coalitions from all regions of the country. Since 1992, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) has been training local grassroots groups, known as community anti-drug coalitions, in effective community problem-solving strategies, teaching them how to assess their local substance abuse-related problems and develop a comprehensive plan to address them.
“It was so interesting to see how many people were in attendance and to see people from all walks of life,” said Kendall. “The conference really put into perspective how widespread our country’s drug problem is.”
All five students are a part of Santa Margarita’s Next Step club, in which they travel to local middle schools and explain the effects and consequences of drug abuse. The CADCA conference provides them with valuable information that they can share with their fellow club-members and the middle schools they visit.
“I came to the conference last year, but I’m really glad I was able to attend this year because there was so much new information,” said Smith. “Now I have the most up-to-date facts and studies to present to the middle schools.”
At the forum, students participated in "break-out" sessions where they discussed methods of promoting the anti-drug /anti-gang messages to their peers and in their communities. With the recent legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, the subject was a definite hot topic at this year’s conference.
“It was really interesting to hear about all the unexpected consequences that came along with the legalization,” said Hunter.
“People are so focused on the taxing issue but the good doesn’t outweigh the bad,” Johnson agreed. “It’s only going to make things worse for our country.”
After the conference, the students also had a chance to sightsee. Some of the stops on their tour included Mt. Vernon, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Wall, the WWII memorial, and also a tour of congress where they even saw a bill get passed.