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Chantilly Community Coalition Tackling Substance Abuse

According to a survey last year of Fairfax County students, 21 percent of eighth-graders, 36 percent of 10th-graders and 53.4 percent of 12th-graders reported using alcohol in the last 30 days.

While these rates are lower than the comparative rates nationwide, they are still cause for concern. And a new organization, the Chantilly Community Coalition, wants to do something about it.

"We, as parents, need to keep our children so involved with positive activities that they don't have time to get involved with things like that," said Greenbriar's John Hanyok, coordinator of the new group. "I'm mobilizing various groups to help."

With safe and drug-free youth as the goal, the Coalition is composed of parents, PTA members, health professionals and a school-resource officer. "Parents need to reinforce what the students are learning in school about [the dangers of] substance abuse," said Hanyok. He described the Coalition as a group of parents "getting educated and looking out for each other."

It's also a pro-active organization of schools, businesses and community volunteers concerned about violence, alcohol, tobacco and drug prevention for youth in the community. And everyone is welcome to participate.

By building character and teaching the value of integrity, citizenship, respect, compassion, responsibility and trustworthiness, the members hope to strengthen students and parents making lifestyle choices to be safe and drug-free. The Coalition will also give parents a way of networking and building a teamwork attitude toward achieving these individual, family and community goals.

The group hopes to develop activities free from substance abuse and violence, teach children how to resist peer pressure and enhance local residents' sense of family and community. Member schools in the Chantilly Coalition are: Chantilly High, Franklin and Rocky Run Middle, St. Timothy Catholic School and Brookfield, Greenbriar West, Greenbriar East, Lees Corner, Oak Hill and Poplar Tree elementary schools.

According to national statistics, the average age of U.S. drug users is 13. Wanting to bring this fact to light — and present information about drug and alcohol use right here in Fairfax County schools — the Chantilly Community Coalition will hold a meeting for all adults in the local community, Monday, Feb. 4, at 7:30 p.m. in the lecture hall at Chantilly High.

Co-sponsors are the Coalition and the Chantilly High PTSA. A panel discussion and refreshments will follow. Call Kathy Smith at 703-803-7462 or Hanyok at 703-262-2475.

Suzanne Martone, the Fairfax County Public Schools' (FCPS) alcohol and drug liaison, will discuss drug and alcohol abuse, and county Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge Charles Maxfield will speak about the legal consequences of substance abuse, as well as prevention.

In addition, former county police officer P.D. O'Keefe will reveal the results of a survey of 14,000 eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders in Fairfax County schools. It was conducted between January and February 2001 by Communities That Care, a national group FCPS hired for that purpose.

Hanyok is hoping for a good turnout Monday; then he wants those receiving the information to pass it on. "Our objective is to get attendees to sign up to have another meeting with their church, community or other organization to tell them the results of the survey," he said. "I'm trying to foster more parent involvement by giving them information out in front."

He said the Coalition will help orchestrate these meetings and a Communities that Care representative will come present the information. "Parents need to know what their children are thinking about the drug issue, and [the students'] neighborhoods, schools and parents need to make a conscious adjustment to create a safe and drug-free atmosphere."

Except for the Feb. 4 meeting and holidays, the Coalition will normally meet, the second Monday of the month, at 4 p.m., in the Chantilly Regional Library's conference room. To become a member, call 703-262-2475.

"I want people to feel more open about discussing [substance abuse] with their neighbors," said Hanyok. "We welcome parents to come and learn and take something back to their community."