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Students in Worthington headed back to school Monday, and this year, they are getting some help keeping them safe from drugs, alcohol and bullies.
As most kids at Worthington Kilbourne High School got re-acquainted with each other and met their teachers, a small group of juniors and seniors got down to business.
They met in a room off the guidance office under a sign that said, "Be yourself, because everyone else is already taken."
With the help of Lori Povisil, they were planning two simultaneous anti-bullying assemblies -- one for girls, one for boys. The program is called "One Leg at a Time."
"We want to break down all the cliques and teach them compassion and acceptance," said junior Grayson Brown.
They hoped a single-sex assembly might encourage people who have been bullied or have bullied others to speak out.
"I've seen a lot of girls crying because of what people have said to them," said junior Courtney Fisher. "At our school, we have people sitting in the hall eating lunch because they don't fit in anywhere, and don't have anywhere to sit in the cafeteria, though there are plenty of seats."
Povisil, the Safe and Drug Free Schools Coordinator, said that this generation of high school is a different world from the ones their parents knew. Bullies are often anonymous as they attack through social media.
"My sophomore year, one of my really, really good friends committed suicide," said senior Cody Mathess. "He didn't leave a note or anything, so nobody really knew why he did it. I thought maybe he had been bullied. And I didn't want anyone else to go through that around here."
Povisil said that drug abuse is a problem in every school district.
"Back in my day in high school, it might have been marijuana and alcohol, and now we're talking heroin," Povisil said.
Last year, Worthington schools hired Povisil to be the safe and drug-free school coordinator for the district. She helps kids set up programs that reach out to their peers. She handles drug education. And in the year since she extended the anti-bullying program district wide, she's seen a change.
"More students are a little bit conscious, and it's hopefully making a culture shift," she said.
She knows that many teenagers stop talking to parents and no longer share every part of their lives, so she started a program to build bridges there, too.
"We run an insight program for students and parents to kind of reconnect."
Her goal is to help kids avoid trouble.
"I think the need is huge. I appreciate that Worthington has recognized that. And I see it as being more pro-active than reactive,” she said.
The kids see the difference Povisil is making.
"She helps us," said Mathess. "She gives us great tips. She organizes everything for us. She's just one of the best inspirations, one of the best people you can meet."
Povisil said that she works closely with the health teachers and guidance counselors in the district and sometimes makes referrals to social service agencies.
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