By Seth Kinker, firstname.lastname@example.org
Last week U.S. Representative Tim Walhberg, R-Tipton, led a Community Forum at Saline High School on combating substance abuse.
Wahlberg, who is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Health Employment, Laborand Pensions, along with representatives from Saline High School and the Pittsfield Police Department gathered at the high school to lead the forum which had information about substance abuse trends, how to identify vaping, edibles, and other substances.
Speakers included Saline High School students, Pittsfield Police Officer Shawn Booth who is the school’s resource officer, Mark Schuby who is a student assistant coordinator at the high school, Congressman Wahlberg, and Leigh Ann Roehm, a teacher and Girls Varsity Basketball coach at Saline.
Wahlberg opened the forum speaking about the importance of the issue and how it has become an important aspect of what he does. He’s recently toured around the state speaking about the issue and has even worked across the aisle with Debbie Dingell-D, stating the issue as being non-partisan.
Wahlberg stressed the importance of everyone valuing life, to not take a chance, and for people to look out for each other. He talked about the conversation taking place that evening and hoped the stories would help everyone grow stronger to step up to the plate and help those around them.
Senior students Zach Drevno and Alex Lampman presented facts on trends in today’s society. Their powerpoint presentation included information on what teens are doing today, what their dangers are, and how to identify certain things such as Juuls and edibles.
David Raft, Principal of Saline High School, and Booth spoke about the ease with which substances discussed that night were attainable. Booth pointed out he wasn’t naive enough to believe it wasn’t happening in Saline schools but that there have been no opioid incidents at Saline Schools. Both reinforced the need to be vigilant and have open conversation with their children.
Roehm shared her story for the first time that day about her brother, Derek, who they lost to an overdose. Roehm’s story moved the crowd to a standing ovation as she spoke about his life and how decisions that were made led to the outcome.
She read part of her eulogy, in poem form, that highlighted who he was. She spoke at the end of her speech about how she never mentioned the overdose in her eulogy because she knew that people would potentially stop listening. She wanted everyone to remember her brother for who he was, which was much more than his decisions, and “the story of a son, brother, grandson, uncle, and intelligent athletic individual with tons of potential whose brain was changed at a young age by substance abuse.”
While holding back tears after speaking Roehm said she was thankful for grief, which was a manifestation of love, an emotion triggered by the thousands of childhood memories she had of her brother.
To end the forum, Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), a student club at Saline, gave a presentation, a play, that represented the positive and negative forces in someone’s life. It showed a young girl’s progression through her life and what it was like fighting all those negative forces and trying to get back to a positive force.
At the end of the presentation, each student involved in the play spoke about the different messages society tells them versus what other messages are still sent out with those negative connotations.
After the presentations, a Q and A discussion were available for those in attendance. Superintendent Scot Graden thanked the students, congressman, attendees, and speakers at the end of the forum calling the presentation “powerful.”