A group of McMurray students is bringing a former federal drug prosecutor from Idaho to Vashon next week to speak about preventing youth substance abuse.
Monte Stiles, a motivational speaker whom the students heard at a youth conference in Yakima last fall, will visit next Tuesday, speaking at assemblies at the middle and high schools and giving a presentation in the evening for parents and other adults.
“We all felt like he was a really great speaker and he would really have an impact at our school,” said Jack Kelly, a McMurray student involved in the effort.
Last November, Kelly and seven other McMurray eighth graders traveled to the Washington State Prevention Summit in Yakima, where they spent several days attending workshops on substance abuse and healthy communities, hearing speakers and meeting other middle schoolers from around the state.
Kelly said the group was especially inspired by Stiles, who was the keynote speaker at the event and also put on a workshop that some of them attended.
“A big part of his message was that peer pressure can be a really good thing when used correctly and we should empower each other to stay away from dugs. … Kids should be the ones to support their friends when it comes to substance abuse,” Kelly said.
Stiles spent nearly three decades as a state and federal drug prosecutor. He now travels the country and the world as a drug educator and motivational speaker, delivering messages to schools, churches, law enforcement agencies and youth organizations.
The eighth graders, who have met regularly since the Yakima conference, approached the Vashon School Board to secure funds to bring Stiles to Vashon. The Vashon Alliance to Reduce Substance Abuse (VARSA), which helped send the group to Yakima, is also helping cover Stiles’ appearance.
“We found a lot of available money to bring him here,” Kelly said. “It was incredibly easy.”
Luke McQuillin, who heads VARSA, said he was thrilled the organization was able to send middle schoolers to the prevention summit last year — adults from Vashon have attended the last couple of years — but even more thrilled that they were taking steps to share what they learned with other island youth. The group has also been reading substance abuse facts to the school during the morning announcements and is making plans to put on healthy after-school activities for their peers.
“It’s exactly what we were hoping for,” McQuillin said. “These kids are going to take this information and hopefully be the seeds to continue this as they move forward through the grades.”
Stiles will speak at daytime assemblies at McMurray and Vashon High School on Tuesday, March 5. He will give a talk aimed at parents and adults from 7 to 8:30 p.m. that evening at McMurray Middle School.