"Justin Motley urges children and youth to live lives free of alcohol, tobacco and drugs."
Pushed at first by his mother to join the Dothan-Houston County Substance Abuse Partnership, Justin Motley, 16, of Headland, AL, now cherishes his involvement with the group and its positive influence on his life.
What kind of philanthropic or volunteer work do you do?
Justin: As an active member, I have sworn to abide by and maintain the values of the Youth Council Program. I believe in the program and its values. I have made a formal commitment to maintain an alcohol, tobacco, and drug-free lifestyle. I have remained actively involved in the program and have abided by the guidelines. It is an incredible feeling when younger students and children look up to me as a role model as well as my peers and my community. The commitment to remain alcohol, tobacco and drug-free has been a difficult one, but I made a healthy choice.
What is the name and location of the organization?
Justin: Dothan-Houston County Substance Abuse Partnership, Dothan, AL.
Tell us about the project, especially who benefited from this work.
Justin: The project is supervised by Mrs. Susan Trawick; she is the director. Mr. Frank Roberson is the youth coordinator. We meet twice a month. Sometimes we actually have a class about substance abuse, or sometimes we do fun stuff like hold a dance or take a trip. We normally collect food for the elderly at Christmas, sing carols to them, etc. We also have been instrumental in getting our local restaurants to go smoke-free in Dothan, Ala.
We also host a Red Ribbon event every October, where we go out to the local schools and pass out T-shirts, posters, stickers, etc. to the young kids to send our message. We perform puppet shows to numerous schools. During this time, we also have the city and county do proclamations announcing this time of the year as Red Ribbon Week.
We have also learned some very valuable information such as life skills. The staff at the Dothan Houston County Substance Abuse Partnership is awesome; they devote their time and energy to us. Also we do fundraisers and other things like, "Eat Dinner with your Family Night", Prom Promise events, etc.
What inspired you to get involved?
Justin: My mom works for this agency and insisted I join early on in the ninth grade. I really wasn’t interested but I joined. It was apparent first off that the agency was important. The youth council directors – first, Mrs. Yeritza Nocera, and then Mr. Frank Roberson -- have been incredible role models to me. The peer mentoring by means of puppet shows to small children, encouraging them to remain drug-free and refrain from getting involved with drugs, meant something to me. Sending an anti-drug and violence message is an ever-growing concern in our community.
How did you first get involved? Give us some details.
Justin: My mom was very instrumental in getting me involved. She grew up in a household in which her father was an alcoholic, and she felt and still feels that if she makes me and my little brother aware of the dangers of the drugs that are out there and what their effects are on a person, that with all hope and prayer, we will not use them.
What is/was the best thing about your experience?
Justin: I feel the best thing about my experience is that it has forced me to get up and speak in front of others. Through speaking with the agency and doing puppet shows, I have grown more comfortable with myself and have found it easier to get up in front of others now.
What is/was the hardest part?
Justin: The hardest part is just getting to the meetings every other Monday. I study hard and also work a job. I still make a conscious effort to stay involved with the Dothan Houston County Substance Abuse Partnership and with all of its projects.
What was the biggest surprise?
Justin: The biggest surprise to me was in a “Abstinence in Motion” training seminar that talked about the number of youth that are sexually active and have a sexually transmitted disease before they graduate. We not only keep ourselves up-to-date on drugs and alcohol but also sex, violence and other issues that youth are faced with daily.
What new things have you learned as a result of your experience and how have you changed as a result?
Justin: I have learned the importance of committing to an endeavor as well as being a drug-free individual. I have grown as a person by learning to get up in front of people and sharing a message, whether it be a drug-free message or just giving a prayer at church.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting involved in philanthropy or volunteering?
Justin: My advice to anyone wishing to be a volunteer would simply be to get involved as a student or a parent or a person, in general. I implore you to know the dangers that exist out there for our youth and the peer pressure that they are encountering daily. If it weren’t for agencies such as this one, a lot of students would likely participate in drugs and alcohol, but the information I have been given early on was influential in my maintaining the Drug-free Lifestyle as well as my promise to God.
Would you like to be involved in a similar organization?
The Web sites below can help you find one in your community. Alternatively, you can search the Internet for "substance abuse [enter the name of your city or state here]":
Partners for Substance Abuse Prevention (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
Students Against Destructive Decisions (founded as Students Against Driving Drunk)
Partnership for a Drug-Free America
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