Student VoicesBack to student voices archive November 25, 2015
White House highlights West Virginia SRL report on drug abuse
By Jayde Robinson
West Virginia is fighting a war against drug abuse. We all know users, recovering addicts and their families and we all see the everyday struggles and hardships of addiction and losing family and loved ones.
In my hometown of Richwood, West Virginia, we commute to and from school expecting a healthy and safe environment. Yet more and more, students and community members report finding needles and other drug paraphernalia on their walks home.
Our Student Reporting Lab at Richwood High School produced a short video to show the impact of drug abuse in our hometown in advance of President Barack Obama’s visit to West Virginia on Oct. 21. Our video, “Mr. President, We Want You to Know” — has almost 14,000 views on our YouTube channel. The White House’s official Facebook page even shared our content, and excerpts from our interviews were featured on PBS NewsHour.
My classmates Kendra Amick and Haley Brown were in charge of the sound and camera and the piece was edited by Tarrin Neel, a Student Reporting Labs alumnus who now mentors our class. My role was producer for the project. I wrote questions and conducted the interviews. Each of the three women I sat down with said their children inspired them to seek help and overcome their addiction. These women talked, laughed and cried in front of me as they told me about their fight to survive.
The roots of much of the drug abuse problem in West Virginia lead back to hospitals and prescription pain medication. Too easily, people become addicted to prescription medications like OxyContin and Tramadol after being prescribed them by a doctor. If the patients were aware of some of the side effects of taking those medicines, maybe they’d change their mind.
All four of us, including two professional reporters from West Virginia Public Broadcasting, were invited to cover President Obama’s visit to Charleston in October to discuss our state’s drug problems. We all received White House press passes and watched the panel discussion about drug abuse with the “adult” press and reporters. People on the panel shared stories of their sons and daughters struggling with this addiction every day. These stories were touching, and hopefully they touched President Obama’s heart, too.
After Mr. Obama left the building, we were granted an exclusive interview with Sylvia Burwell, Secretary of Health and Human Services. Burwell grew up in our small state, so she is perfectly aware of its great potential. This type of issue really hits home for Burwell as she fights to clean up and protect her home state. Meeting Ms. Burwell was also an honor, but being shared on her Twitter page was even more remarkable. Small things like this don’t just happen every day for students at a small high school. It takes hard work, determination and, most importantly, teamwork.
— Sylvia Burwell (@SecBurwell) October 21, 2015
West Virginia is a beautiful state with beautiful people and scenery. President Obama’s visit shed light on our state’s lack of funding and rehab facilities, which make it difficult to address this important issue. From this experience, I learned that drug addicts and recovering addicts are not bad people, but people who took a wrong turn in life and are often fighting to fix the problem that forced their parents, children and friends out of their lives.
Jayde Robinson is a senior at Richwood High School in West Virginia and a participant in her school’s Student Reporting Lab.
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