SALYERSVILLE, Ky. – Jayden Hackworth sorts through pages of a diary comprised of hand-written stories of her classmates that are affected by addiction.
“It’s easy to forget about these stories,” Jayden, an 18-year-old senior at Magoffin County High School explains. “It’s no one’s fault… but we feel that it our solution to solve.”
A little over a year ago, Jayden and her friend, Kaisen Eastep, were having a causal conversation with a friend at school. The topic turned to addiction, and the friend described the struggle they had with parents battling addiction.
“That conversation sparked a moment, and I knew something needed to happen,” recalled Jayden. “Fast forward a year later, it’s amazing to see how far we have come.”
Through a collaboration with the University of Kentucky and the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC), a blueprint partner of Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR), the group of students received a $1,000 grant.
The idea at first was simple. Jayden said she initially thought about creating a power point and doing small presentations. She also thought about creating some t-shirts and bracelets for awareness.
And a lot more.
The students organized a conference for their peers. The conference featured the story of Randall Craft, a Magoffin County native, who battled the roller coaster that is addiction. His life in addiction was out of control. As a teenager, he turned to drugs following the death of his grandmother.
His life spiraled out of control. He was a convicted felon and spent more than eight years either incarcerated, in juvenile correction programs, or rehab. He got clean and relapsed. On March 17, 2016, on his late grandmother’s birthday, he checked into Belle Grove Springs, a residential treatment center operated by SOAR Cornerstone Partner Addiction Recovery Care (ARC).
“Hearing someone like Randall share their story was powerful,” Jayden added. “It was something we could all relate to in some, way, shape, or form, but for those more closely affected, it hit close to home. It also showed that recovery is real no matter how bad the situation may seem.”
As students left the conference, they were asked to submit their stories anonymously. The response was overwhelming. The students use the binder as a reminder of the magnitude of their work. They also hope to publish these stories to be distributed at treatment centers, health departments, and schools throughout the region.
Following the conference, Lesley Arnett, a registered nurse and health sciences instructor at the Magoffin County Career and Technical Center, spoke with the students about their next steps.
“We just didn’t want to host an event and not continue to have some conversation about the impact addiction had with our student population,” she said. “The students learned that those affected by addiction wanted more support and resources. All of us have smartphones, so the idea of a mobile application was born.”
Through the assistance of Bit Source, an East Kentucky partner in SOAR, YMO Stories, which stands for Yours, Mine, and Ours, was created. It is a platform where students can access resources, share stories, and post to an anonymous chat room. The app is available on Apple and Android devices.
Jenna Hackworth, Jayden’s 16-year-old sister, is preparing to lead the effort once Jayden and Kaisen graduate.
“I think this is something we continue,” Jenna said. “I think there are more stories to capture and share, and I would love to see our conference be a regional event for other high schools.”
She’ll also work to keep a newly-formed Operation UNITE club at Herald-Whitaker Middle School going. Kaisen formed the club last year to coordinate efforts with Operation UNITE, a regional organization that has led efforts in awareness and youth programs since its formation in 2003.
For more information on the Yours, Mine, and Ours program and mobile application, contact Arnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.