ELYRIA — More than 700 students with one voice screamed out four words Wednesday afternoon that they hoped would be the new teen mantra.
“We are the majority,” the students from 14 high schools said, growing louder each time the words were chanted inside the gymnasium of Elyria High School.
The second annual “We are the Majority” rally took place inside due to rain, but was no less enthusiastic than last year’s inaugural event on the steps of the old Lorain County Courthouse.
“People see the kids who are outside of school, in the community and doing the drugs and alcohol,” said 16-year-old Cassidy Hyde. “But there are more of us in school, doing the right thing that people don’t see. There are more of us than them.”
Cassidy said she enjoys school and likes to help her community. She is a member of Link Crew, Key Club and will soon be inducted into the National Honor Society at Elyria High School.
“I don’t do drugs and alcohol,” she said. “My friends don’t do drugs and alcohol.”
Several students echoed Cassidy’s sentiments, saying they aren’t among the small, yet significant, number of teenagers who do use drugs and participate in high-risk behaviors.
“Countywide, statistics say between 20 and 30 percent of teens are using drugs and self-report anonymously that they are,” said Joel Reichlin, associate director of education and prevention for Lorain County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services, which handles programming for 30 schools across the county. “We are dealing with the worst heroin epidemic we have seen in years, but when you look at the numbers, the majority still rules.”
“Sometimes saying no to drugs and alcohol comes down to making a simple decision,” said Ja’ Quetta Davis, a senior at Elyria High.
The 18-year-old served as the event’s mistress of ceremonies and said her decision to stay drug-free started in elementary school.
“No on told me not to do drugs or alcohol,” Davis said. “But I took D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) in school and learned enough to say it wasn’t for me. They taught me what drugs can do to your body and how drugs destroy your community.”
Darrell Shumpert, coordinator of the Teen Institute of Lorain County, said the goal is to spread the word that no teen needs drugs, alcohol or high-risk behavior to be cool or fit in.
The local event was coordinated by a group of 26 high school students. They hope to continue their campaign to raise awareness, said Vivian Tran of Brookside High School.
Next stop: A radio spot on WOBL-AM-1320.
“We don’t want this to stop,” Tran said.