By Rachel Hall, reporting for Bluebonnet News
Imagine a room full of teenagers being asked if they trust the police and only seeing four or five hands shyly held up among the peers. It happened during the “Real Talk” session held for youth under the age of 18 at the Dayton Community Center on Jan. 15.
“My door is always open at the office. You are welcome to call me, text me, or come see me at the police department if something is happening to you,” Dayton Police Capt. John Coleman explained to the teens after detailing why he cares about the community and its youth.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from or the color of your skin or where you go to church or if you don’t go to church,” he added. “[Officers] don’t get up and put on our boots in the morning and say, ‘I can’t wait to arrest everyone today.’ We are here to help.”
Coleman and Attorney Farrah F. Harper were two featured speakers who addressed the teens about implications of drug use and that there are people out there who care about them.
“If you make good decisions and do the right thing, people want to take care of you,” Coleman said. “Don’t let peer pressure draw you into something – be your own person.”
The three most-abused drugs by teens include alcohol, marijuana, and vaping.
Once a person becomes an addict, they are always an addict. Their minds are always thinking about the substance, craving it, and wondering what it would be like to start again when in recovery, according to Cpt. Coleman.
“Cigarettes are an addiction; not a habit. Don’t let a substance – an addiction to anything – decide how you live. You should live for yourself,” he encouraged.
Harper added to the conversation pointing out two of the three most-abused drugs were around schools when the adults in the room were the same age.
“We’re not here tonight to change the fact you’ll have to face these decisions. We are here to say, ‘Think,’” said Harper. “That decision is on you. Get caught and there are consequences at home and consequences at school.”
One suggestion Harper had for teens was to use the same two words she did growing up – “I’m good.” Her friends knew to pass her up when offering drugs or alcohol, because she would say the same two words each time.
Harper asked audience members what they would do if they encountered other teens on campus participating in drug use. It’s a situation she experienced first-hand in her school days when someone in sixth-grade brought alcohol in a glue bottle.
“You don’t have to be a snitch, but do something. Look at them crazy and say something,” she suggested.
Adults don’t expect teenagers to be perfect, according to Harper. Youth need to have a list of people they know and trust who they can call for help when facing difficult decisions.
“Make the decision. It’s yours to make. No adult in this room can make it for you. We just want you to know the consequences,” said Harper.