Mountain Valley High School junior Novak Collins, left, and seniors Nevaeh D’Angelo, center, and Cecelia Gamache are helping to plan their school’s Substance Abuse Prevention and Awareness Day in November. The event will be facilitated by Maine nonprofit organization Students Empowered to End Dependency. The day will include upwards of 20 different guest presenters for students to choose from. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

RUMFORD — According to Mountain Valley High School seniors Cecelia Gamache and Nevaeh D’Angelo, and junior Novak Collins, when assistant principal Craig Milledge asked them if they would be part of a student group to help organize a substance abuse prevention and awareness day on Nov. 17, they each knew the importance of taking part.

In preparation for the event, the three students, along with seniors Ella Young and Brooke Brown, have been meeting with people from the nonprofit organization Students Empowered to End Dependency, or SEED, and learning about “interactive ways that we can get students involved in learning about addiction and substance abuse,” said Gamache.

Gamache’s other reasons for wanting to be involved in planning for the school’s substance abuse prevention and awareness day were that she “was tired of hearing there is no hope (for drug abuse and addiction recovery); you’ll never fix it.” She believes that if she can help at least one person, and that if “everybody in this world tried to help one person,” people’s lives will change for the better.

D’Angelo notes that her “big takeaway” on why the school is having a substance abuse awareness day is to provide education about resources in the area and to help to end the stigma of people who are addicted to substances. The area has “a very high addictive community,” and substance abuse affects everyone, whether it’s the abuser themselves or their families and community, D’Angelo said.

Collins pointed out that educating younger students about the harm of drug abuse and addiction is also important, since she knows that the problems in their community often start at a young age, she said.

Of the three students, D’Angelo said that she grew up around substance abuse disorders and that in her early childhood, drugs were part of her home life. Both of her parents were drug addicts at that time, although her mother has been clean from drugs and in recovery since D’Angelo was seven, when she and her mother and brothers lived in a homeless shelter.


“And now to this day I have a lot of PTSD and trauma and so that’s what sparked my search for education (on substance abuse prevention),” D’Angelo said. In the past, she has worked with the Larry LaBonte Recovery Center in Rumford and she received therapy for anxiety and depression until she was about 13 years old, she said.

“As I got older, I started to realize the feelings that I had, my friends weren’t feeling. I didn’t have motivation; I was always on edge, I was waking up every morning with this terrifying feeling,” D’Angelo said.

The school’s substance abuse awareness day will be facilitated by SEED organization staff members and MVHS. Assistant Principal Craig Milledge and Principal Tom Danylik have been working in close collaboration with Program Health Coordinator Diane Gallagher of River Valley Healthy Community Coalition and Program Manager Melissa Harding of River Valley Rising in preparation for the day.

“We’re going to have upwards of 20 different guest presenters from around the state in different classrooms around the school, and they are going to be giving presentations on a variety of different subjects,” Milledge said. Subjects will include a wide range of information such as the effects of alcohol addiction and how the potency of marijuana today is much different and often stronger than the marijuana of years ago, he said.

“We’re going to have substance abuse counselors, added social workers and professionals on campus that day, to provide safe places for students who may be uncomfortable having those conversations and being a part of those different workshops,” Milledge said.

He hopes that having their awareness day at the school will help students who may need help reach out to get the help they need.

“I think by us bringing in these people (workshop presenters) right out there in front of them and making sure they understand the resources around them,” students are more apt to seek out help, Milledge said.

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