White House shout out goes to local youth group

By Adam Strunk

A Harvey County Youth organization is getting recognized, in the highest of offices.

Thursday night, United States First Lady Melania Trump tweeted out a picture of the leadership team for STAND of Harvey county.

“Embracing a substance-free life isn’t just healthy, it is laying a foundation for a brighter future for all,” she stated, thanking the local organization for their work.

STAND is made up of around 100 high school students from Harvey County’s five high schools as well as Peabody. The group aims at encouraging area youth to be leaders, make healthy decisions, avoid substance abuse and support each other.

“The work that STAND and the coalition was doing has been getting national attention,” said Benjamin Meier, youth leadership program manager.

Meier explained recently STAND was selected out of 700 other similar youth programs to be one of nine site visits for the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

“They saw we had something special, and they could tell through the data,” Meier said. “They were really impressed with our STAND kids.”

He said recently the organization received an email stating that the first lady was looking to recognize drug-free youth organizations.

“Her signature says executive office of the president,” Meier said. “Kind of crazy, as you don’t get that in your email every day. “

The STAND organization submitted some more information about it and a picture. He said he found out this afternoon that STAND would be recognized.

Meier said, despite COVID-19, the organization has had some local chapters double in size and is doing what it can during the pandemic with various activities. He said that the pandemic has highlighted the need to address mental health issues among young people.

“A lot of what we’re doing is bringing some fun back to the weirdness of this year and giving positive messages and focusing on mental health,” he said.

STAND is a part of the Drug Free Youth Harvey County Coalition, which various community leaders and organizations formed in 2017 to try to decrease drug and alcohol use among students in Harvey County.

Since then, the coalition has received multiple grants, including a five-year renewable Drug Free Communities grant  for $125,000 annually.