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Community leaders visit Middlesboro schools

For Black History Month, The Friends of Lincoln School, in honor of Ashley Johnson Jr., sponsored a presentation for Middlesboro Middle School and Middlesboro High School on the importance of staying away from drugs — specifically targeting the opioid epidemic rampant in not just Southeastern Kentucky, but across the nation.

The theme of Thursday’s presentation was “Don’t Give Your Power Away…to drugs! Enjoy your life and Become the Man or Woman You Were Meant to Be!”

The presentation featured various prominent black members of the community with backgrounds in education, business, military and law enforcement.

The roster of speakers consisted of moderator Reverend Samuel Wansley of Mount Moriah Baptist Church, Bell County Jailer Gary Ferguson, Director of the Southeast Kentucky Small Business Development Center Samuel Coleman, LMU Vice President for Enrollment, Athletics and Public Relations Dr. Jody Goins and Nairobi-born Edmond Bogonko who received a soccer scholarship at LMU, among other accomplishments.

The tone of the presentation wasn’t one of rote lecture. The guests made it a point to speak to the students as equals and provide solid facts as well as encouragement.

Gary Ferguson spoke about his experience as jailer and just how prevalent drug use is among the inmates of the jail he serves.

“We have anywhere from 125 to 150 inmates, give or take, at any given time. And of those 125 to 150 inmates about 95 percent of them are in there because of drugs and drug related charges,” he said.

Ferguson then went on to explain the kinds of chemicals and substances addicts will use to make meth and other narcotics — things such as bug spray, rat poison and battery acid.

“This has become an epidemic. It’s not something that has just started to happen. It has gotten to be of epidemic proportion…this has taken everybody by storm. There is probably not anyone in this building that doesn’t know someone who has been affected by drugs of some kind or the drug epidemic. I really encourage you to stay in school, and do the right thing, always,” he said.

After Ferguson left the stage, the tone shifted to a lighter mood as Coleman took the stage to speak about the options young people have when forging their career. Coleman helps people start small businesses.

He stated,”My theory is, if you’re going to work hard for somebody, why not work hard for yourself?”

Coleman then pulled out a Pet Rock, a children’s product (that was literally just a rock in a box) that debuted in the 1970s and made its inventor rich. He asked the students if they knew what it was — none of them did. He then explained it to them, garnering genuine laughs.

He joked,”If your idea is worse than this, don’t come see me. But if it’s a little better than this maybe we ought to talk about it. In the days of the internet all options are possible. I’m just saying, dream the dream big.”

The speakers continued to share themselves with the students and to encourage them to ignore drugs. At the end of the speaking, Wansley fielded questions from the students. After the Q & A session, President of the Friends of Lincoln School, Wallace R. Wade Sr., presented a donation to the Middlesboro Middle School and Middlesboro High School Youth Service Centers.