The Leland & Gray middle school Above the Influence group was at it again this past week, plastering the town with stickers! Each school year, local liquor retailors welcome our group into their stores to put stickers on their alcohol stock that remind folks not to provide to minors. This winter, our stickers read, “Don’t let this be the most expensive drink you will never have. Keep alcohol out of the hands of minors”. This year, we are fortunate to have more than 10 middle school members who are dedicated to living above the influence of drugs and alcohol as well as educating their peers about the risks associated with substance use.


While traveling from store to store, the group interviewed one another about why they choose to participate in Above the Influence. Abbie Hazelton, an 8th grade student, explained that she is in the group because she’s seen what drug use and addiction can do to a person’s life and wants to ensure that her own life doesn’t follow that path. Another 8th grader, Tiffany Cullum, said that she feels participation in the group has given her the skills to teach her peers about the dangers of drug use. Cyrus Black, 7th grade, remarked “I want to change the world”. As the current Above the Influence advisor, I am often humbled by the answers I get to these questions. They work very hard during the school year to address many important teen health concerns and not only do they live above the influence, but they encourage their peers to do the same. Up next on their agenda? They will facilitate a community dialogue in Townshend about the results of their Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Stay tuned for details about participation. Thanks to the Newfane Market, River Bend, the Harmonyville Store, D&K’s and the Wardsboro Country Store for welcoming us into their stores and for their continuous support of our work! Thanks to the Windham County Partnership for Success for funding this project.


Author – Kate Venne, Project Coordinator, West River Valley Thrives.

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