Public Health Department Hosts Second Annual Drug-Free Pep Rallies

Columbia County Public Health, in partnership with the Opioid Response Network (ORN), recently held a successful series of nine Drug-Free Pep Rallies focused on overdose prevention, vaping, and marijuana education. These events, which took place from May 6-10, 2024, across various schools in the county, engaged students in crucial substance use prevention and education activities.

The rallies featured numerous community speakers, including representatives from Columbia Health Services, Youth Era, Vernonia Police Department, Columbia River Fire and Rescue, St. Helens Police Department, Sauvie Island Fire District, OHSU, local coaches, chaplains, Commissioners Kellie Jo Smith and Margaret Magruder, as well as school administrators, staff, teachers, and nurses. Columbia County Public Health appreciates the support from community partners to make these pep rallies a success.

The nine Drug-Free Pep Rallies focused on three main areas: overdose prevention, vaping/nicotine, and cannabis/dabbing. These rallies were designed to engage students while providing targeted drug education and prevention. It was the objective of the rallies to promote a sense of community among students and to provide them with information regarding local resources.

"It was an honor to be part of the Drug-Free Pep Rallies and see firsthand the positive impact they have on our youth," said Columbia County Commissioner Kellie Jo Smith. "These events are crucial for educating our students about the dangers of drug use and providing them with the resources they need to make healthy choices. Columbia County is dedicated to supporting initiatives that promote our community's well-being, and I am grateful to all the organizers and participants who made these rallies a success."

Participating schools included Vernonia (5th-12th grades), Clatskanie (7th-10th grades), Sauvie Island (5th-7th grades), St. Helens Middle School (6th-8th grades), and Rainier/Hudson Park Elementary (5th-12th grades).

Jim Helmen, Superintendent for the Vernonia School District, also shared his gratitude: "The Vernonia School District extends its heartfelt appreciation to the Columbia County Public Health Department and Jerria Martin - Opioid Response Network for their unwavering support in empowering our students from grades 5-12 to lead drug-free lives. Your contribution has been instrumental in shaping a brighter future for our youth, and we are truly grateful for your partnership."

Key organizers for this year's Drug-Free Pep Rallies include Jessica Kosydar, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator; Haley Schimmel, Health Promotion Specialist; Jerria Martin, ORN Consultant; and Sarah Cavanese, ORN Technology Transfer Specialist.

"These rallies represent Columbia County's ongoing commitment to the health and well-being of its students, providing them with the knowledge and support they need to make positive choices for their futures," said Kosydar.

For more information about Columbia County Public Health and its initiatives, please visit Columbia County Public Health Website.

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  1. Jerria Martin, Opioid Response Network (ORN) Consultant, energizes the crowd at a Vernonia Pep Rally.
  2. Community members join Columbia County Public Health staff at Pep Rallies in Vernonia.
  3. Students participate in the "Escape the Vape" activity at a Pep Rally in Rainier. 

*Photography Credit: Leyla Duechle, Columbia Health Services

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