BRITT | High school students from West Hancock and Garner-Hayfield-Ventura came together last week to discuss their views on what it's like to grow up in Hancock County.

The participants in the annual Hancock County Allies for Substance Abuse Prevention Youth Summit then gave a public presentation on what they think is going well and what needs to improve. 

"It really gets the community involved," said Michaela Grant, a senior at West Hancock. "Our voice is finally heard."

Each year 40 students from West Hancock and 40 from GHV are randomly selected to participate in the summit.   

The discuss advantages and disadvantages of being a teen in Hancock County, opportunities, school culture, community culture, access to drugs and alcohol, and other issues. 

The students were divided into seven groups, with each group focusing on one of the following topics: the faith community, coaches and mentors, law enforcement, schools, parents, businesses and community events. 

During the public presentation at Britt United Methodist Church, some of the things the teens said they want were:

• For churches to reach out those who need help, including addicts.

• For coaches and mentors to explain rules and regulations and enforce them consistently.

• For law enforcement to patrol more in smaller towns and do random drug tests on students participating in athletics.

• For schools to administer breathalyzer tests at prom because they say lot of students are showing up drunk or on drugs.

• For parents to be non-judgmental so their kids will come to them if they get pregnant or have a sexually-transmitted disease.

• For businesses that serve alcohol to offer rides home to people who need them and to install more security cameras.

• For community celebrations to offer more events that appeal to teens.

The adults at the presentation, including school officials and law enforcement, asked the students questions. 

When asked what else they will do to spread their message, the teens mentioned newspapers, social media, school websites and a town meeting. 

Karie Terhark, director of Allies for Substance Abuse Prevention, said having students from both West Hancock and GHV participate in the summit teaches them they are facing the same issues and "can really work together."

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