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LBW hosts local high schools for FOCUS rally

BY: ORA NELSON

The FOCUS program had its second rally dedicated to southern Alabama counties at the LBW campus on Jan. 31.

The rally welcomed 550 students from 17 different groups from schools across lower Alabama. Students went through four “breakout” sessions throughout the day that included two of the eight sessions for each group of students.

Each session covered a different topic ranging from underage drinking and safe driving to opioid abuse and vaping among many more.

“I’ve learned a whole lot that I can use when I leave for college,” said Hayden Halsey, a twelfth-grade participant from T.R. Miller High School in Brewton, Ala.

“I didn’t know how big of a problem opiate abuse was until I came here today,” said Hope Warthae, a ninth-grade participant from Pleasant Home High School. “Now I know the signs in case I ever need to help someone.”

“Its a break from the school day, but they’re still getting educational material,” said Charlotte Spurlin, a Peer Helper sponsor and FOCUS teacher at Andalusia High School. “This is a great way for kids from different schools to come together and talk so they can see that other people are concerned about this too. It [talking] makes the problem bigger and more real to the students than just talking at their own campuses.”

“The purpose of this rally is to network and to get these kids to network with each other,” said Sue Jones, statewide director and co-founder of the FOCUS program. “The goal is to get them motivated and energized to take what they learn today back to their schools.”

“It was a lot of fun meeting people from other places,” said Sam LoDuca, also a twelfth-grade participant from T.R. Miller High School. “I made a couple [of] new friends here.”

Jones encourages schools to become a part of FOCUS

The FOCUS program is funded through the Alabama Department of Public Health and was started in 1997. FOCUS is a state program that is offered to schools free of charge.

Andalusia was chosen to host the rally due to it being a much more central location for southern counties than the rallies in northern Alabama.

“I think the important thing is that not just with these topics our kids are covering in these sessions, but with anything that’s important, we need to talk about it.,” said Spurlin.

Jones thanks both Andalusia High School and Spurlin for hosting the 2020 FOCUS rally.

More information about the FOCUS program can be found at thefocusprogram.com and on both FaceBook and Twitter under the username of “AlabamaFocus.”