CHILLICOTHE, OH (WCMH) — Thousands of southern Ohio high school students converged on Chillicothe with their own version of how to battle the drug epidemic.
Students from nine area high schools marched to the beat of drums and chants, as they rallied from Yoctangee Park to their way downtown.
NBC4 spoke with several families along the way who lost loved ones to the drug epidemic.
In all, 2,200 students from all over Ross County, including Circleville High School, poured down Paint Street to the Ross County Courthouse.
“My mother was into drugs, and I lost her because of it, but I just want to change everything,” said Chillicothe senior Dakota Smith. He now leans on his friends for help, and they all said they signed the pledge to be drug free. He said he is proud of these students who want to change the world from what it is.
“Almost a year ago I lost my son Chase Guysinger to this drug epidemic here,” Billy Guysinger was helping along the parade route with his family in tow. He said Chase’s son misses him, so does the family. The loss is still so raw the family broke down in tears after talking about Chase. But Billy said they are very proud of these students commitment to stay drug-free.
“It is pretty humbling to see all these kids commit to doing this, it means the world to me and I’m sure it means the world to their parents and I am just proud of them,” Guysinger said.
The pledge is on a volunteer basis, where students sign a contract and take a drug test. They are issued photo ID’s that get them perks like discounts on merchandise. They also agree to be randomly tested throughout the year.
Fifty-five percent of students from those nine schools made the pledge, Huntington Local High pledged 80 percent of the student body.
“This is a culture change. A lot of these students go home to second and third generation drug or alcohol abuse,” Said Wayne Campbell.
He is the brainchild behind this local organization. He also started Tyler’s Light after his son died from an overdose six years ago.
Organizers said this is the second year for this event, which is sponsored by the Drug Free Clubs of America. In 2016 1,500 students signed up.