It's easy to put on blinders and dismiss the possibility that our children may abuse drugs and alcohol. "That doesn't happen to people like us. Our children are good kids from a good home."

Guess what? It can happen to anyone … any family … anywhere!

Last evening, approximately 150 interested community members gathered at Lehighton Area High School to learn first-hand about the signs of drug and alcohol abuse. Lehighton Area School District presented "The Big Picture" – a program that included various speakers, as well as student-produced videos depicting statistics and graphic photographs of drug and alcohol abuse.

Facilitating the informational and educational meeting, Lehighton Area High School Principal Tim Tkach said, "Kids have to know that we care about them. We need to make connections with them. We need to listen." Communication is a key concept that was discussed repeatedly throughout the evening.

Gretchen Laviolette, Principal of both East Penn and Franklin Elementary Schools, reviewed the health curriculum for students in kindergarten through fourth grade. Topics include character education and decision-making skills.

Lehighton Area Middle School Principal Mark McGalla discussed the curriculum for students in fifth through eighth grades that includes skills for adolescents and a student assistance program.

Director of Curriculum Jonathan Cleaver presented a detailed description of the guidance and wellness courses offered to high school students in 9th through 12th grades.

Marcus Statham, Director of Technology, introduced the idea of a district hotline to report possible drug and alcohol abuse. The hotline is still in the planning stage.

Sandy Michalik, Assistant Supervisor of Special Education, addressed the educational services offered by the school nurses and intervention specialists.

Representing the Office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General, Janene Holter said, "They're your children. Look in their rooms. Know where they are going and who they are with!"

"Don't try to be your child's best friend. You have to be a parent. Give them direction. Give them a goal."

She also reminded the crowd that drug and alcohol abuse is not just a Carbon County problem. "It's everywhere!"

Throughout the school year, Carbon County District Attorney Gary Dobias spoke to students around the county – educating them as to what will happen if they are charged with a crime. "There are consequences. The decisions that kids make today will affect them for the rest of their lives."

He also reminded parents that there are consequences for adults who contribute to the delinquency of a minor. Parents allowing drugs and alcohol at parties must realize that there are consequences for their actions.

Jamie Drake, treatment program manager for Carbon-Monroe-Pike Drug and Alcohol Program, was also on hand to answer questions.

Following the question and answer period, Superintendent James Kraky thanked everyone for their interest in "this critically important topic."

The meeting concluded with a call to action. Those in attendance were asked to sign up to actively participate on a community-wide committee to address drug and alcohol abuse – "a committee with representation from all parties addressing 'The Big Picture.'"

Tkach probably summed it up best when he said, "We're all in this together. It takes the whole community … everyone to pitch in and get involved."

The next Drug and Alcohol Awareness meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, July 20 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. All community adults are invited and encouraged to attend and become involved.

For more information about LASD in general and the awareness program specifically, visit www.Lehighton.org [2].