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Annual Prevent Event held Wednesday

The Troup County Prevention Coalition’s fifth annual prevent event taught participants about youth and vaping, partnering with teenagers and mindfulness. The event was held Wednesday at LaGrange College, which teaches parents, community partners and those working in substance abuse prevention about new patterns in teenage drug and substance abuse.

“It’s a day our Troup County Prevention Coalition sets aside to offer training for local community members, parents, faith-based organizations, anyone who has an interest with youth and family,” said Shannon Lawson, coordinator for the Troup County Prevention Coalition. “We’ve heard a lot from the community, concern and worry over the uptick of youth use around e-cigarettes. Now, our data shows us that conventional use of tobacco is decreasing in youth use almost to nothing. Kids are not using cigarettes, but what they are using and what they are turning to are e-cigarettes and vaping, and more importantly the JUUL component.”

Sessions included a youth and vaping session led by Laura Searcy, partnering with youth led by Jasmine Carrasco and mindfulness led by Ellen Ward and Veronica Johnston. Fred Stanley, the senior site coordinator for Communities in Schools of Georgia in Troup County was the keynote speaker.

Lawson said a lot of parents attended the vaping session.

“This year we saw a lot more interest from our parents of the community, and we welcome parents of all ages to join us,” Lawson said.

Ward and Johnston, from the Dawson County group Next Generation, talked about how mindfulness can help teenagers stay focused and help prevent them coping from stress with substances. The two led participants in mindful activities such as using the senses with a lemon slice, learning deep breathing and having coloring pages and color pencils for visitors to use during the session.

“Mindfulness is an ancient practice. It’s caught a bunch of steam and notoriety recently,” Ward said. “The senses are the gateway into the present moment and that it why we do things using our senses now.”

Johnston said many of the students in their program come from stressful environments, so mindfulness helps them reach out to the teenagers.

“Most of our kids are living in fight or flight (response),” Johnston said. “It is not a response that goes away when they’re then in a safe environment. They’re in constant hyperarousal, ready to fight. They can’t sleep. They’re anxious. They really can’t function.”

Carmen Caldwell, the project director for the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention Project, said this was third time she’s attended the event. Caldwell said she works in communities and schools for preventative support in Pike, Spalding and Henry counties.

“I’m able to actually hear some new ideas, and they bring in very knowledgeable and engaging speakers and workshops,” Caldwell said. “The information that is shared is often times cutting edge. It’s something that’s new that I can apply immediately. It has tons of resources that we get. So the speakers who come usually come with resources in hand so that we can even do follow up things beyond just sitting at the conference and getting the information, but how we implement it and apply it into the work that we do.”

Caldwell said she participated in the mindfulness session and thought it was amazing.

“I work with young people, again through the substance abuse prevention, but also I am a youth minister.” Caldwell said.

“We’ve already started a little bit of this, but this gave me actual hands-on resources to implement some things I can take back immediately and apply. It was amazing in how the impact of using mindfulness to support youth and coping with emotions and issues in life circumstances where oftentimes they don’t have the control over because they’re young people.”

The Prevent Event also recognized TCPC members with its partners in prevention awards. This year’s members who were recognized were LaGrange Police Department Sgt. Mark Cavender, Harmony House Domestic Violence Shelter’s LeKae Ford and Troup County Juvenile Court Chief probation officer and intake officer Nicole Kostial.