CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — The Center for Disease Control says 10 percent of middle schoolers admitted to vaping last year. That is a 1000 percent increase compared to a decade ago.
Some schools in Central Illinois are searching for ways to stop that trend.
“These are the kids of our future generations,” says Stacy Welch, who runs Shalynn’s Hope, a drug education non-profit. “This is what Operation Hope is gonna do, we’re going to work with the younger kids.”
Steered Straight was brought to several schools Monday by Shalynn’s Hope. One stop was at East Prairie Middle School in Tuscola.
Michael DeLeon is an ex-convict and CEO of Steered Straight. He has spent more than a decade in prison for hard drugs and gang violence. His path to prison started by becoming addicted to nicotine while he was in middle school. He says the vaping trend is putting kids back on that path.
“The three drugs they’re using is alcohol, nicotine, and marijuana,” says DeLeon. “90 percent of all people who have ever struggled with addiction started with those three drugs before the age of 18. And right now, we have a vaping pandemic in America.”
Welch started her group after her daughter died of an accidental heroin overdose. She wants kids to know drug addiction is very real.
“I want them to see that it’s real,” says Welch. “I want them to see it does happen and it’s not just a story out there. It really happens to real people. Like today, these kids didn’t know I lost my daughter. It’s real. I’m seven miles from them. It’s just getting them to realize it really does happen.”
DeLeon will continue his visits in Central Illinois for a few more days. He will visit Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond schools on Tuesday and Monticello schools on Wednesday.