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UAFS Students Respond to Teen Issues

UAFS Students Respond to Teen Issues(Posted: April 28, 2012)

It all started as a class project where seven students had a goal of helping just one person. The class has now ended, but the plan for the issue they tackled – prescription drug abuse by high school students – will go on.

The students involved were Meagan Bowling, Jodie Bradshaw and Patrick Upchurch, all of Fort Smith; Thai-Hoc Nguyen of Greenwood; Travis Holmes, Owasso, Okla.; Casey Price, Roland; and Dennis Reynolds, Van Buren.

Dr. Steve Williams of Fort Smith, dean of the College of Business and instructor for the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith course, said the Community Leadership class involved numerous community leaders during the semester-long project.

"These students have done an excellent job of recognizing a community issue," said Williams. "They have developed a multi-pronged program to address the problem, including developing an informational Facebook website that has already attracted more than 700 hits, arranging to broadcast on regional television stations a tagged public service announcement, producing a multi-colored information brochure providing links and contacts about student prescription drug abuse to be supplied to high school counselors and others, and arranging to have a targeted skit delivered to high school audiences about the subject."

The students made a presentation to UAFS officials and community members at 4 p.m. April 30, providing insight into how they approached the problem and what they did to come to their conclusions. Hosting the event was Dr. Jim Beard of Fayetteville, business administration department head at UAFS.

In opening remarks, Beard said that volunteerism is "a wonderful thing," but that leadership has a larger role.

"Leadership means identifying a special community challenge, conducting research into symptoms and causes of that challenge and addressing that challenge through a process of project management," said Beard. He then introduced the students, who outlined the steps of their class project and stated current status of the various aspects.

The students related that one in five high school seniors have tried prescription drugs at one point in their high school careers and, of that number, 70 percent obtained the drugs from a friend or relative.

Student Dennis Reynolds said the group decided the best way to reach parents would be at parent-teacher conferences. They then came up with a brochure. Teammate Patrick Upchurch listed the items in the brochure, which included a lot of statistics and warning signs on how to tell if a teen is abusing drugs.

"This brochure," said Upchurch, "will be used to target parents. We hope our Facebook page will target the high school students."

Further information provided during the session included summer plans to continue work – even though their class is ended – with Van Buren high school students in the development of a skit to be presented at schools. The group also showed a television public service announcement, which is planned for more than 300 showings on three local television stations.

Meagan Bowling said the team wanted to raise awareness of the prescription drug abuse problem among teens.

"We wanted to make sure our community is educated and knows the proper steps to take," said Bowling. "We want to keep the project going."

Assisting Williams with the class were Rusty Myers, former assistant executive director of the Western Arkansas Planning and Development District, and Fred Williams, chief executive officer of Williams/Crawford and Associates. After the student presentation, both were given a chance to speak about the results of the class.

Williams said "this has been an adventure."

"If they had done one deliverable, that would have been good. They did four," he said, adding that the statistics hit home.

"This hits you in the gut," he said. "There were several wow moments with the focus group. Some of those I wish I hadn't heard. They turned that focus group into some of the things you've seen today."

Myers agreed with Williams' assessment on the "adventure."

"We have been blessed to be a part of this group," said Myers. "This is the first time this class has been done. I applaud the College of Business administration for bringing this up and deciding to do it."

Myers said there were two things that he and others could not do for the students in the class.

"We couldn't motivate you all, and we couldn't create any passion in you," he said. "You did that on your own. If you are to be successful, there's got to be a passion. You all had that, and it came through clearly. You've set the bar really high for future classes."

Several community leaders provided input as the class developed, including Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders, Fort Smith City Administrator Ray Gosack, United Way executive director Tom Minton, and Leadership Fort Smith director Barbara Harvel.

The students' Facebook page is www.facebook.com/PrescriptionDrugAbuse.



Article by: Sondra LaMar, Director of Public Relations
Photo(s) by: Sondra LaMar

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