Drug Free Paulding

By Larrianda Wolf, Program Director

Jack, a 15 year old baseball player from what many would consider a great Paulding County family, was caught using a vape at school. When asked what was in the vape, he admitted he didn’t know. It was later discovered that he not only used the vape pen and had his own hidden at the neighbor’s, but he also tried marijuana. When his parents discovered the drug use they were overwhelmed with how to parent this issue, so his mom contacted Drug Free Paulding for help!

As parents we strive to provide our children with ways to live happy, healthy, and productive lives. Unfortunately, as our children develop into adolescence, they are influenced by more than just their parents. This is why it is important to increase awareness around issues that impact teen health and safety.

Consider this: more than 90% of high-school seniors said that it was easy to get alcohol; 90% of addictions start in the teenage years, and the effects of vaping and/or “Juuling” include nicotine addiction and harm to adolescent brain development according to the CDC. For instance, the nicotine content of one JUUL pod is equivalent to an entire pack of cigarettes. Bailey Jones, a member of Drug Free Paulding’s Youth Council stated, “You never know what’s in the vape because it could be different than what you thought.”

Reported in a 2018 Georgia Public Health Department Survey, more than 26% of high school students reported ever having tried a vape.  Paulding County youth and parents are reporting that athletes, cheerleaders, honor students, popular kids and those on the sidelines are all vaping, which is creating a nicotine addiction epidemic with teens in the United States.

Drug Free Paulding, a federally-funded community coalition working to prevent youth substance misuse recently sent ten local youth to Georgia Teen Institute (GTI), a week-long leadership program for youth action teams from across Georgia. The Drug Free Paulding Youth Council, as they are known, identified vaping (nicotine addiction) as the number one issue related to youth substance misuse across Paulding County. At Georgia Teen Institute our youth were immersed in the following strategic prevention framework skills: 

  • LEADERSHIP SKILLS: Our youth collectively developed leadership skills enabling them to embrace and overcome challenges. They were empowered to create positive sustainable change within their schools and throughout their community. Tiffanie Warnock, a Drug Free Paulding Youth Council member, stated “I have the power to create change.”
  • TEAM BUILDING: Youth Council members engaged in team building activities and were challenged to work together in social situations, just as they will in school, home, and the workplace. Team building activities taught our youth to problem-solve and execute ideas while holding each other accountable. Potential problems can be reduced through appropriate prevention strategies. Our youth are an important resource to our community. Giving them more meaningful opportunities to contribute is positively effective within the youth population.
  • COMMUNITY SERVICE PROJECTS: Drug Free Paulding Youth Council planned community service projects to prevent youth substance misuse. With proper -guidance and support, our youth will become capable adults. Our team discerned the local community issues that they felt needed to be addressed and developed appropriate action plans to combat these local conditions.  Our youth council chose to address drug misuse through vaping. Our adolescents know what challenges exist in their schools as they are the ones who walk the halls and talk to their peers daily. They must be included in development of positive prevention actions.
  • PREVENTION PROGRAMS: Peer-focused prevention programs will better serve our community. Our youth coalition chose to provide education and offer continuous support for all students in an effort to have a positive impact on drug misuse within our schools and community. They plan to promote peer-led prevention activities in school and throughout the community by providing information about drug misuse, specifically through vaping, and implementing healthy alternative activities that will develop positive life skills.

Georgia Teen Institute continues support of the Drug Free Paulding Youth Council throughout the year by offering our youth additional training as well as meetings to assist with discernment and implementation of our team’s goals for the community. After attending GTI 2019, Gabrielle Mattern stated, “I am incredibly thankful to Drug Free Paulding for sending me to Georgia Teen Institute. GTI taught me leadership skills, helped me to gain confidence, and strengthened the teamwork within the youth council. I am excited to start working on the events we have planned and putting what I’ve learned into action!”

“If we are going to change the community, we have to empower our youth. That is the only way we can make any permanent, effective change within our community” – Amanda Watkins, Youth Coordinator, Drug Free Paulding.

Drug Free Paulding is a coalition of Paulding County community members dedicated to preventing substance misuse by our youth. Our youth coalition consists of teens ages 12-18 from all over the county. Thanks to Drug Free Paulding, an adolescent drug treatment group began in Paulding County this summer. This program is free to all youth ages 12 to 17 who have substance misuse issues. The only payment required is a parent must attend a support group while the youth attends treatment.


“We know that drug misuse and addiction are not just the user’s problem, but this issue causes strife throughout a family.  We want to help heal the entire family through parent support while the youth is in treatment.  This is the reason for the parent support requirement,” shared Larri Wolf, Drug Free Paulding Program Director. For more information about Drug Free Paulding, the Youth Council and/or the adolescent treatment group email or call 678-202-5777 x 103. You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram.