VINTON–For the past three years the William Byrd High School Prevention Club has presented Halloween Safety programs for local elementary schools as part of the state YOVASO (Youth of Virginia Speak Out) campaign. Last year they visited Mount Pleasant and Bonsack Elementary schools–this year Herman L. Horn and W.E. Cundiff in Vinton.
The visit to Cundiff was scheduled for October 30, the day before Halloween. Students in grades K-2 were invited to the gym to meet character Snap Dragon and to watch brief skits about Halloween, stranger, and seatbelt safety.
The WBHS students were accompanied by teacher and co-sponsor Alicia Spangler, Resource Officer Patrick Elwell, and faculty advisor Joe Scott who is the Student Assistance Program Coordinator at William Byrd.
Prevention club members performed skits to help make the younger students aware of how to cross the street safely, on the need for flashlights when trick or treating, the need to stay on the sidewalk and not run, on not getting into cars with strangers or giving information to strangers, and even not eating too much Halloween candy.
After the program, students returning to their classes exchanged “high-fives” with Snap Dragon and Officer Elwell. The Snap Dragon character is a reminder for students to keep their seatbelts fastened (snapped).
The Prevention Club at William Byrd is one of the most active in the county according to Scott. He says the club is basically student-run. There are currently about 30 members from all grade levels who meet every other week before school at 7:45.
They sponsor several peer-to-peer education and prevention programs throughout the year, including the safety visits to the elementary schools usually close to or during Red Ribbon Week.
The Red Ribbon campaign is the oldest and largest drug prevention program in the nation reaching millions of young people and is held annually from October 23-31. The Prevention Club partners with other groups to decorate their own school for the campaign in addition to visiting the elementary schools.
They also participate in the “Save Your TAIL-Gate, Buckle Up” Campaign to increase overall seat belt use among teenagers. The goal is to help students form a life-long, buckle-up habit. At WBHS the campaign involves posters for seat belt safety, encouraging students to take the seat belt pledge, and a seat belt rally. There have been “honk your horn if you are wearing your seat belt” events for students driving into the parking lot at WBHS.
Another project is the Sticker Shock initiative which brings attention to the consequences of underage drinking in a manner that involves youth, customers and business owners. Students have visited the nearby Food Lion and placed stickers on alcohol products to remind adults not to purchase alcohol for those under age 21.
Prevention club member Antonio Montuori said he joined the Prevention Club to help keep other students, especially younger ones, from following the wrong path, to get them on the right path, and to share important safety information with them that will make a difference in their lives.