October 4, 2006 | By: Laura Skillman

Teens and adults from 20 western Kentucky counties spent two days in late September gathering information on drug abuse prevention to take home and help combat the problem in their communities.

“Our goal for the retreat was to prepare teams from the 20 counties to form youth-adult partnerships and go back into their communities and address the problems of drug abuse,” said Tommy Harrison, retreat chairman and 4-H agent for the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service in Muhlenberg County.

Harrison said a few counties in western Kentucky, including Muhlenberg, have youth-adult drug abuse prevention partnerships. They were asked by the UK Cooperative Extension Service to share their experiences with others in the western region who would be interested in forming partnerships.

“We are happy to say we had right at 160 youth and adults registered for the overnight retreat,” he said. 

In addition to the highlighted youth-adult partnerships, youth development specialists, law enforcement and health and prevention specialists shared information and curriculum with the participants. Teams also participated in various team-building programs, including an obstacle course. Each county team’s goal was to form an action plan while at the retreat to implement back home.

“We started a drug endangered children coalition in our county about a year ago and the teens came on board and they were eager to work with the adults,” Harrison said. “Adult-youth partnerships are not a new concept. It’s something we encourage in our 4-H programming. It seems to work well. The youth have so much that they can bring to the table. We feel like they can learn a lot from the adults as well, if we will give them a chance.”

Teens from existing youth-adult partnerships were part of the retreat planning committee, including Erin Day, a Muhlenberg South High School senior. She said they get positive feedback from across the county for their efforts in drug prevention. 

“I think drugs are a problem and I don’t want to see kids affected by them,” she said. “There are lots of other fun things to do without drugs.”
Suzanne Holt, also a senior of Muhlenberg South, said the retreat was a chance to get more counties involved in adult-youth drug prevention partnerships.

“Hopefully, they can go back home and implement some of the things we’ve been trying to do,” she said. “I think the (youth-adult partnership) works. Sometimes youth can get a voice, but sometimes you need an adult just to help you get that foot in the door. I feel like a lot of the adults benefit as well because they find out what will work and what won’t work and what kids can relate to and what they can’t. It helps both sides.”

Austin Marshall of Marshall County attended the retreat after being told about it by one of his 4-H leaders.

“There are problems in every county, so anywhere you can help is good,” he said. “Whenever kids work with adults the point gets across more than what adults can do by themselves. We are around it everyday, so we know what’s going on and we can tell them what works and what doesn’t.”

Maggie Langston of McCracken County also learned about the retreat through her 4-H contacts.

“I think we can help get the point across a little bit better about what the drugs really do to you,” she said. “The adults know what it is we need to get across and we can keep it entertaining.”


Tommy Harrison, 270-338-3124