CHILLICOTHE— The Chillicothe City School District hosted its seventh annual Keys to Success Program Thursday.
This event brought students from Chillicothe City Schools to the courthouse to rally around their commitment to staying drug free.
Keys to Success is an anti-drug reward and education program for students that aims to give them a reason to say “no” to drugs. It was started in 2015 as a way to reduce the harmful impacts drugs have had on the community. The program works to reach students before they start using drugs and teach them the three keys to success in the future which are don’t do drugs, get passing grades and be a good citizen.
Chillicothe City School alumnus, Gary VonKennel, noticed the drug problem and increasing overdoses happening in the community and decided he wanted to help students. He started this program with the help of others and continues to help fund the mission. In thanks for all of his support with the community, Mayor Luke Feeney named Thursday, May 12, 2022, Gary VonKennel day in Chillicothe.
During the event, students heard from a former addict, Adam Hall, who told his story of using drugs and alcohol to avoid his feelings. This led to Hall being arrested for a felony when he was only 26, an event that would lead to him becoming sober.
“A feeling never killed me, but I almost killed myself trying to appease a feeling,” said Hall.
He urged kids to not be afraid to reach out for help. That the “poor me” mindset quickly turns into “pour me another drink.” He spoke of how walking away from his former life was awkward and hard but he is glad he did. Having the strength to realize he needed to change has helped him to live a better life where he is much happier with who he is.
“My opinion of myself today matters more to me than what other people think of me,” said Hall.
During the program, students were awarded scholarships from businesses and over 250 prizes. These prizes included gift cards to local businesses, bikes, iPads, VR headsets, and a karaoke machine.
The highlight of the day was the annual car giveaway. This year Herrnstein Auto Group donated a new 2022 Kia Rio. To be entered to win the car students must reach the goals the program has set and agree to be drug tested at least three times a year in order to prove they are staying clean. The winner, Madeline Johnson, was stunned to hear that her name had been drawn. Johnson is a junior who recently received her license.
“This is crazy,” said Johnson. “I was not expecting it at all.”
If students are unable to pass the drug test or were unable to keep passing grades they were not eligible to win the car, but they were eligible for secondary prizes. They are also given access to counselors to help them reach thegoals in the future.
Shelby Reeves is a reporter for the Chillicothe Gazette. You can email her at [email protected]