Tracy Gravell, Lindsay Otis and Lisa Lawrence-Boyer catch up outside of Franklin Academy.
One former student using skills to help others
Citizen Advocates has youth prevention and education specialists stationed in 12 Franklin County schools, and for students like Lindsay Otis, a 2019 graduate of Malone’s Franklin Academy, the program can be life changing.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the prevention program,” Otis said. “Growing up, I was the only member of my family who didn’t struggle with addiction. I wanted so badly to get out, but prevention gave me the tools to understand why the people I loved were acting the way that they were, and how I could help them without going down that rabbit hole myself.”
Otis, now a Licensed Practical Nurse, started with Citizen Advocates’ prevention program in elementary school but was a bit older when she fully realized the program’s benefits in middle and high school, working with prevention specialists Lisa Lawrence-Boyer and Tracy Gravell, respectively.
“At a certain age, I saw more and more of my peers struggling with addiction and destructive decisions,” Otis said. “I realized that with the tools I learned from the prevention program, I could be a resource for others.”
What the prevention program does
The prevention program at Citizen Advocates promotes awareness, resources and education related to youth mental health and addiction, using a mix of evidenced-based programs and activities that foster positive youth development.
Prevention specialists work with teachers, counselors and administrators to develop trusted relationships with students, increase awareness around risky behaviors and support referrals for struggling students.
The program reinforces knowledge, coping skills, prevention techniques and interventions to support healthy choices when it comes to addiction, bullying, mental health and promoting self-care.
Initiatives like Girl Power, SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), Signs of Suicide Program and the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program are designed to promote leadership, confidence, stress management and more among youth.
“As prevention specialists, we battle the stigma that exists around mental health, suicide prevention, bullying, and addiction,” said Mrs. Gravell, Franklin Academy’s Prevention Specialist for Citizen Advocates and Co-facilitator of the Franklin County Prevention Task Force. “We offer counseling and support to help kids navigate the difficulties of modern adolescence, but also a space for them to connect with their peers in a way they might not otherwise. It’s important for teens to know they’re not alone.”
Lessons for life
Now a member of the Franklin County Prevention Task Force herself—a group of community members who create social change through community prevention efforts that lead to healthier lifestyles, better lives and a drug free community—Otis still applies what she learned in school to her adult life.
“Addiction doesn’t go away easily,” she said. “I still use the tools I learned in the prevention program to communicate with family and peers who are going through things today. Mrs. Gravell and Mrs. Lawrence-Boyer taught me how to sort through what I can and cannot do. They were always there, even just to listen. Because of what I learned in the prevention program, I have a great relationship with all my family members who dealt with addiction.”
“The goal of the prevention program is to get kids help,” said Mrs. Lawrence-Boyer, Citizen Advocates’ Prevention Supervisor and Co-facilitator for the Franklin County Prevention Task Force. “To know that those lessons last into adulthood makes everything worth it.”