Nine Pocahontas County High School students were honored last Thursday during the Warriors Above the Influence 2018 poster presentation. Brianna Hef-ner, Hunter Shafer, Jacob Jones, Elijah Robertson, Emalee Arbogast, Breanna Sharp, Emily Casto, Peyton Coleman and T.D. Sparks were selected to represent PCHS.
Every two years, the Pocahontas County Prevention Coalition selects students to represent the school on a poster proclaiming their choice to be drug, alcohol and tobacco free.
Students go through a rigorous application process which includes an interview, drug screening and background check of their social media posts.
At the presentation, Prevention Specialist Cheryl Jonese congratulated the students who were selected and encouraged the student body to live a life above the influence of dangerous substances.
“The reason we do this poster is to encourage you to be above the influence,” she said. “We want you to be successful. It’s not a cliché when I say to you that you are our future. It’s kind of selfish that I want you guys to be successful because you are going to be a part of my future as well as that of the community, the state and this country.”
Jonese shared information about the dangers of using substances and how easy it is to become addicted.
“No one plans to become addicted,” she said. “For whatever reason people start using a substance – they might be curious, they might be pressured, they might be dealing with stress or something else – but you never know if you’re the one that’s going to get hurt. Just one use – it could be leading you down a road that you might not get back from.”
Substances Jonese stressed students should avoid include alcohol, tobacco products and drugs, both illegal substances and prescriptions. She said that using and abusing these substances is not the right way to deal with issues in your life or to escape from responsibilities.
“Don’t try it even once,” she said. “It’s not worth it. If you’re dealing with something bigger than you and you’re trying to mask it or take care of it by using a substance, just know that there are people in this school, and in your family and in your community that will help you and support you. Reach out to them. Tell them, ‘I need some help.’”
Jonese thanked the students for participating and reminded them that all students are welcome to apply for the next poster which will be printed in 2020.
The 2018 poster is the sixth in the series, and Jonese reminded students that several past Warriors Above the Influence have created lives for themselves in and outside of Pocahontas County.
“You have two teachers in this school that were on the Above the Influence poster,” she said. “You have Mr. [Abe] Rittenhouse and you have Ms. [Chloe] Bland. We have kids from past posters who now live and work in this community and are raising families. We have people who are growing things on farms. We have kids who are pharmacists and veterinarians. We have a young man who is in the Army fulfilling his dream as a pilot. We have another young man who is an officer in the Marine Corps and a young woman who is in law school now.”
Following in those people’s footsteps, Jonese said all the students at PCHS can lead successful lives if they stay above the influence.
“You all can achieve all these things,” she said. “Set your goals. Set a course. Work toward it every day and above everything, stay above the influence.”
Principal Joe Riley also addressed the student body, harkening back to his speech from the first day of school.
“You are the captain of your ship and just like these individuals, there are going to be people in your life that say, ‘take this path,’ but you are the captain of your ship,” he said. “You can plan whatever direction you want. Just think about the consequences of the direction that you take and always make sure that you make the best decisions for you and the people around you.”
As the nine students were presented framed copies of the poster, they each spoke about why they are above the influence, how they were proud and honored to represent PCHS on the poster and that they hope to inspire fellow students to live the same way.
Representatives from sponsors of the poster congratulated the students for their efforts in making the right choices.
Sponsors of the poster project include: Picket Fence Photography, Pendleton Community Bank, Delegate Bill Hartman, MindEase Solutions, Pocahontas Memorial Hospital, Pocahontas County Chamber of Commerce, Pocahontas County Commission, Pocahontas County Board of Education, Pocahontas County Sheriff’s Department, Marlinton Rotary Club, Snowshoe Mountain Resort, Snowshoe Foundation, Family Resource Network, The Pocahontas Times and the Pocahontas County Prevention Coalition.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at email@example.com