DEGRAY, Ark. — While the notebooks and backpacks are still about a week away, the people working in schools who ask how to keep kids away from drugs and alcohol are pouring over the data in an annual survey and preparing tools to use in their home districts.
"It's very difficult to watch other kids that struggle with it," said Stephanie Taylor, a student from Batesville referring to drug abuse that she sees among her classmates.
"I've learned more about how to get it across to others in my community. I've learned just how to get it across to everybody."
That message is coming across in many places, and showing up in the Arkansas Prevention Needs Assessment survey or APNA. Based on past results, our kids are telling us a lot.
"Across the United States, people are looking at our data and are surprised that we are getting as much percentage from the schools," said Tenesha Barnes, the Substance Abuse Prevention director for the state.
She traveled with her boss, Drug Director Kirk Lane, to speak with prevention specialists meeting for three days at Degray Lake Resort. They offered a pat on the back to the attendees for helping make the survey successful.
"It lets us know what they're going through and what they're facing," said Kenden Gray, a regional prevention specialist. "We, in turn, can make plans and create activities that will combat those anti-social things that they are facing."
The APNA is becoming a model for the whole country, and the people here are hoping to convince the few hold outs who haven't joined in yet. They have a blunt message for parents they hope is voiced to those school leaders.
"I want them to be outraged," said Barnes. "There's no way that we can actually service this department, these youth, this generation if we don't know what they are facing."
There's survey data online going back to 2002 with listings of school districts that participated each year.