April 5, 2006 | By: Laura Skillman

A group of Muhlenberg County youth are hoping they can educate younger students and keep them from using drugs.

The group, Students Teaching About Narcotics Dangers (STAND), is a division of the county’s Drug Endangered Children’s Coalition. Tommy Harrison, Muhlenberg County 4-H youth development agent with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, is their adult leader.

“We feel like it is very important for younger students to hear from older students in the community, kids they can look up to,” he said. “These are exceptional young folks. Their enthusiasm is unbelievable.”         

The group recently had a display at the Muhlenberg County Chamber of Commerce’s first Chamber After 5 event at the Extension office. They also have spoken to the chamber and conducted programs at schools.

“They are doing a lot of work informing the public particularly about the methamphetamine problem we have here,” Harrison said. “They have done several things already with fellow youth and have plans to do more.”

The coalition is about 200 volunteers from all walks of life, including law enforcement, schools, health care and faith community. Muhlenberg County Judge-Executive Rodney Kirtley asked Harrison to work with the teen group within the one year-old coalition.

“We feel like we need to teach the younger, elementary students about drugs and we know that they will listen to high school students more than they will listen to adults,” Kirtley said. “So we tried to get a group of nice high school kids, which we were able to do, and now they are going back into the schools and we feel like they are getting the young people’s attention.”

Ashleigh Whitehead and Brad Bilbro were two of the STAND members attending the Chamber After 5 function.

“Ashleigh and I were on the (county’s ) community education committee and we heard them talking about meth and the drug endangered children’s coalition and it sounded interesting so we went to the next meeting and they started a teen committee. We saw the intensity of the problem in our community,” Bilbro said.

“Some of the things STAND does are community education about drugs,” said Whitehead, a junior at Muhlenberg North High School. “That’s our main focus. We have also focused on elementary, middle school and high school students because I think it’s easier for a high schooler to reach a middle schooler about drugs because they kind of look up to them a little.”

Bilbro and Whitehead said a recent survey of students in Muhlenberg County showed that the percentage using drugs in the past 30 days was higher than the state average. Both students said they knew people that had used drugs. Inhalants are the biggest problem with younger children, along with marijuana, but meth use is beginning to grow, they said.

The teens were trained by Cheyenne Albro, head of the Pennyrile Area Narcotics Task Force and were able to talk to recovering addicts.

 “I think we already have reached some students. They seem eager and ready to learn about it,” Bilbro said. “We are trying to focus on the students exiting elementary and exiting middle school because that’s when the peer pressure is on.”


Tommy Harrison, (270) 338-3124