The image of a relative he looked up to using drugs stuck in the mind of a Center Grove eighth-grader.
He thought of Sam Motsay, a Center Grove High School student who died in 2014 from a drug overdose after he took a synthetic drug called N-bomb. He didn’t want to see the same thing happen to anyone else.
So, Center Grove Middle School North student Gage Adams pitched an idea to the National Junior Honor Society: host a forum for parents to learn the signs of drug use. The other 100 honor society students immediately agreed that was necessary, National Junior Honor Society faculty adviser Meg Witt said.
Witt repeatedly heard stories from her students about friends, relatives and peers they knew that had taken drugs or alcohol and were arrested or dropped out of school.
The students began by reaching out to police and guidance counselors to try to bring guest speakers to the forum. In the past five months, the students have advertised the forum Feb. 1 and called drug and alcohol-affiliated organizations Students Against Drunk Driving and Overdose Lifeline to set up booths.
They wanted to go beyond having a guest speaker and instead give parents the details of what drugs are most prevalent in the area, what teenagers could use to take them and what changes they should look for in their children.
“Drugs and alcohol can really ruin a young kid’s life and what he wants to do for his life, so if parents knew what was going on, they could help their kid lead a more successful and happy life,” Adams said.
Teenagers want parents to attend this event, which shows that students want boundaries and limitations from their parents, even though they may challenge them, Witt said.
Having students ask for more awareness should alert parents that drug and alcohol use is more common than they think, said Jeanine Motsay, who created nonprofit organization Sam’s Watch after her son’s death, to teach other students about the danger of synthetic drugs.
“I think that it’s a sign that the students are asking for help,” Motsay said. “It is a passionate statement for parents to be engaged in what’s happening when it’s coming directly from students and it’s student-driven.”
Motsay’s son, Sam Motsay, was a student-athlete and had never heard of N-bomb, a mostly unknown synthetic drug, before trying it for the first time, and it killed him overnight, she said. Teens may not realize that taking a drug, even for the first time, could be life-threatening, Motsay said.
That’s why her nonprofit organization focuses on education. She wants teens to know experimenting with drugs is dangerous and for parents to understand that new substances are frequently being created. Motsay also will be speaking at six schools statewide during National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week at the end of the month. Motsay is scheduled to speak Jan. 29 at Franklin Community High School.
“You can’t know what you’re getting if you’re experimenting with drugs,” Motsay said. “The ultimate resolution is we need to have more focus on drug awareness in our schools and in our communities. That’s how we can ultimately stay on top of this.”
“It’s impacting more people every day, and we need to get the information out there. Education is the key to prevention.”
Motsay will be joined at the forum by fellow parent Marty Cangany, who lost her son Jarrod Polston in 2010 after he took prescription drugs with alcohol.
Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox also will be at the forum to talk with parents about what happens if a teen is arrested for having or using drugs on them, and what penalties they face.
Witt hopes the meeting will educate parents about what students are using to take drugs, or show adults what type of narcotics they should be looking for. Newer drug paraphernalia may be unfamiliar to parents, such as vape pens, a smoking device.
“One of the things that happened last year, we had some kids who were vaping in the building and none of us teachers even knew,” Witt said. “We thought they were ink pens hanging around their necks. We had no idea what they even looked like, so a lot of parents may not even recognize those kind of things.”
Parents will be split into smaller groups so adults can ask experts questions about a certain type of drug, or how to ask their child if they’re experimenting with drugs. Parents can also find information on support groups for people whose children are using drugs, Motsay said.
A Sam’s Watch and Parents meet will educate parents about what drugs to look for, how to help their child if they notice changes from drugs or alcohol and what criminal charges students could face if caught taking, selling or having illegal substances.
Who: Any parent
Where: Trojan Gym, Center Grove Middle School North, 202 N. Morgantown Rd., Greenwood.
When: 6:30 to 8 p.m., Feb. 1