There are 336 students at East Valley High School pledging to be free of drugs or alcohol.
They aren’t just paying lip service, either.
The students are all members of East Valley’s Washington Drug-Free Youth chapter, the largest in the state for the last four years.
It’s completely voluntary and to join, members must submit to a drug test at the beginning of the school year. Students are then randomly selected for drug tests throughout the school year. Both the student and his or her parents must sign a permission slip.
Members of the group say joining WDFY sends a strong message to adults in their lives.
“We’re proud to be in WDFY,” said Cally King, a junior. She and a small group of the chapter gathered recently to talk about why they joined. Most of them said they have no interest in smoking pot or drinking, and by joining they get discounts at local restaurants and a free T-shirt.
King said the group gets to participate in drug-free events such as bowling and ice cream socials. They also visit local elementary schools and talk about why it’s OK and even cool not to drink or do drugs.
King said the most common question she gets from the kids is whether they will fit in to the school if they join.
The Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council often provides puppets the students use to present skits and plays to the younger students.
“They are like rock stars,” said Terrie Austin of GSSAC. She said the younger kids look up to the teens and even ask for their autographs.
At the elementary level, many of the kids may think all teenagers drink and do drugs. She said exposing them to teenagers who don’t sends a positive message to them.
“Yes, some teens do use, but most don’t,” Austin said.
Austin said there are around 2,500 student members of WDFY in Spokane County. Austin said that some teens who join may have had problems with using in the past, but joining WDFY and testing clean is a way to earn back some trust they may have lost from the adults in their lives.
Some of the kids have lost family members or friends. Some teens look at joining as something to use in job interviews or their college applications.
“They work really hard,” Austin said. “It’s an opportunity to work on something positive in their community.”
Austin said every school has its own program for their students.
At Mt. Spokane, adviser Nancy Butz said the school starts a push for membership before each new sports season begins. Right now, they have around 80 members, but that number is expected to grow as the school year continues.
By the end of last year, the school had 200 students involved.
As the cheerleading and dance team adviser, Butz encourages her students to join.