Christine Dugger is still a teenager, but she has been keenly aware of the cost of drug and alcohol abuse since she was 6, when her grandmother died of a drug overdose.
She’s spent her teen years devoted to speaking against drug and alcohol abuse and working to support fellow teenagers with their mental health.
Dugger’s efforts will be recognized with a YWCA Young Woman of Achievement award this week. She is one of 10 women selected to receive a Women of Achievement award at the organization’s annual luncheon set for 11:30 a.m. Friday at the Spokane Convention Center. Tickets are $125 and available by calling (509) 789-9312.
Dugger said she’s also been to several suicide prevention workshops and learned what signs to look for to see if someone is in crisis, and how to intervene. She said her fellow students at East Valley High School knew they could come to her for help.
“Students knew who to talk to,” she said. “They knew to come talk to me.”
When her grandmother died, Dugger didn’t realize right away that she had deliberately overdosed. As she got older she began to ask questions. “I started to realize these things happen daily,” she said. “I wanted to change that.”
Dugger said quite a few members of her family have struggled with drug and alcohol abuse. She said she was determined to keep herself clean and sober and did what she could to stay busy and out of trouble, including joining school clubs that she had no interest in.
She said she tries to be a role model to her younger family members and makes an effort to take them to the park, play video games or do other fun activities together. “Our family doesn’t need this anymore,” she said. “It’s kind of tearing us up.”
While she was in high school Dugger was asked to lead Spokane Valley Youth Voice, a group created by Spokane Valley City Councilwoman Linda Thompson as a way to get input from youth. “I got some students together,” she said. “We talked about what we wanted to see.”
The teens talked about how hard it was to get jobs, substance abuse, mental health, student safety and homelessness. The group then worked to learn how they could address those concerns.
She also started an organization called Socks for People Without Homes Spokane, which collects socks, water and hygiene items for the homeless.
When she was younger Dugger thought about a career in law enforcement, but her life was changed when she got involved in the Yes I Can program at her high school during her junior year. The program provides peer tutoring to students with disabilities. It sounded interesting, but Dugger said she was really just looking for a class to fill a hole in her schedule.
The class would change the direction of her life. Dugger now wants to be a special education teacher. “I loved hanging out with these kids,” she said. “I fell in love with them.”
Dugger said she has a longtime friend who is autistic, which prompted her to do research about autism and other common disabilities. Her time in the Yes I Can program only increased her curiosity. She said she doesn’t define people by what they can and cannot do. “It’s just another kid who is really cool and smart,” she said. “We’re all human. In my opinion, we’re all the same.”
She graduated from East Valley High School in June and is taking classes at Spokane Falls Community College. She plans to transfer to Eastern Washington University to earn a teaching degree.
Dugger said she doesn’t know who nominated her for the Young Woman of Achievement Award and said she’s pleased that her work is being recognized even though she’s young.
“It’s getting noticed quickly, and I’m just getting started,” she said.
Still, she said, “I didn’t start it to be recognized. I started it for me and my family.”
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