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Staunton: Drug awareness program brings councilwoman to speak at high school

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Photo Credit: Robert Wilson

In January, Staunton Schools launched “It Only Takes One,” a program designed to educate students and families about the dangers of drug abuse while promoting prevention.

The initiative began as Gov. Glenn Youngkin‘s recent executive order addressing drug overdoses in schools was released.

“As educators, it’s incumbent upon us to equip our young people with knowledge that helps them navigate life’s challenges. Our drug awareness and prevention program is about empowering students to know the dangers of drug use, reject the temptations they’ll face to use drugs and go on to live healthy and meaningful lives,” Staunton Schools Superintendent Dr. Garett Smith said.

Throughout the remainder of the 2023-2024 academic year, Staunton Schools will collaborate with various expert partners, including substance abuse counselors, school resource officers and medical professionals to share vital knowledge with students about the perils of illicit substances and how to get help if needed.

On Friday, March 8, Staunton City Council member Alice Woods will share her story of triumph over substance use disorder with four grade levels of students in an assembly at Staunton High School. Woods, originally from New York City, moved to Staunton in 1987. Her journey happened over 24 years and led her to run for council in 2022.

“It’s important for our young people to know that your past doesn’t have to dictate your future,” Woods said.

As a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Woods has dedicated her time to serving seniors while also providing invaluable support as a peer recovery specialist and case manager for the Pathways Program, an initiative led by the Augusta County Commonwealth’s Attorney. Through the program, Woods assists individuals in accessing treatment for substance abuse and mental health challenges to help them avoid facing criminal charges.

On Wednesday, April 3, middle and high school students will hear from Julie Hofmans, who will travel from Louisville, Kentucky, to share the story of her son, Wyatt. He lost his life at age 23 in 2020 after unknowingly taking a counterfeit Xanax poisoned with fentanyl. Hofmans partnered with the Drug Enforcement Administration in 2021 to tell his story as part of the national “One Pill Can Kill” campaign. She’s also traveled Kentucky, striving to prevent similar tragedies by sharing Wyatt’s story far and wide.

Hofmans heard about Staunton School’s drug awareness program from a local parent who contacted Hofmans after seeing Wyatt’s story linked in a drug awareness resource guide created by the school system for parents. Hofmans reached out to Smith and asked to share her story directly with students. She will speak during a schoolwide assembly at Staunton High and her talk will be live-streamed simultaneously on Zoom at Shelburne Middle School.

Hofmans is a special director with The Blue Plaid Society, where she shares Wyatt’s story and helps raise awareness of illicit fentanyl and fentanyl poisonings.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.