Helping kids make the right choices

For two years, American Legion Post 159 in St. Clairsville, Ohio, has provided financial support to the Belmont County Schools Staying Clean Club, a program designed to help students in all of the county’s schools stay drug-free.

Providing that support, including a recent donation to St. Clairsville-Richland City Schools, is just part of what Post 159 Adjutant Rick Johnson said the Legion’s mission has been in the community for years.

“We’re active in supporting the city of St. Clairsville, and we’ve supported the police department,” Johnson said. “I’ve been (post) adjutant for four years, and as far as I can think back – especially in my four years – we’ve been doing things like buying a canine training kit for the police department, (buying) a defibrillator, doing a number of things to be very supportive.

“We’ve built a relationship with the (St. Clairsville-Richland City Schools) resource officer. Right now we’re purchasing 34 flags for the classrooms at the school. He came to us and wanted to know if we’d be interested in helping the drug program.”

Students may join the Staying Clean program at the beginning of the school year by filling out the program’s form. The $10 fee covers all drug testing and any rewards earned throughout the year.

By joining the program, students agree to be randomly drug tested throughout the school year. All results of the tests are kept confidential; if a student tests positive, only the club coordinator and the parents are made aware of the results. School officials are not provided the results.

Students who test positive for drugs lose their club ID cards and don’t have them returned until testing negative.

“The students have to stay clean or their parents are going to find out about it,” Johnson said. “We’ve been very supportive of (the program) and will continue to do it probably annually as long as the program is successful.”

The post’s most recent donation was $750 to St. Clairsville-Richland City Schools. Johnson said more than 400 students in the school system have signed up for the Staying Clean program – more than all of the other Belmont County schools combined.

A year ago the post donated $750 to help fund testing – among approximately $15,000-$20,000 in donations the posts distributes annually – while this year’s donation will provide a rewards meal for the students.

“We are so fortunate in St. Clairsville to have Post 159 support our schools and community the way they do,” said Patrolman Jeff S. Gazdik, a member of the St. Clairsville Police Department and the School Resource Officer for St. Clairsville-Richland City Schools. “Our students appreciate the support of Post 159 in rewarding them to stay drug-free. Without support from fellow classmates, staff, administrators, parents and community organizations, students could very easily choose drugs, which would lead to bigger problems in their life.”

Gazdik said that in addition to the donation providing a meal for the students, it “will also be used to continue to educate the students about the dangers of drugs and the dangers of addiction. I hate to think where we would be without the support of community organizations like Post 159.”