LOCAL FOLKS: Student’s creativity on drug-free design wins public notice

By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal

CHALYBEATE – When you’re driving through Corinth and see a bright yellow electronic billboard with a smiley face and a heart, think of Kiersten Kee.
She recently won the Region IV Underage Drinking/Drugs billboard contest, and her design is scrolling on the billboard at the intersection of U.S. Highway 72/Old Highway 45 and one at South Harper Road/ Proper Street.
In addition to the billboard publicity, Kiersten received a $50 restaurant gift card.
The Chalybeate (pronounced ka-LEE-bit) School seventh-grader created the design “Be Happy, Be Healthy, Be Drug FREE” based on this year’s contest theme, “Life is GREAT – Add Nothing!”
“I just really thought about it and looked around for ideas,” said Kiersten, a 12-year-old student in Janalee Leak’s Career Discovery class.
The contest was open to seventh-graders in Alcorn, Prentiss, Tippah and Tishomingo counties, said Prevention Coordinator Rita Finney. The idea is to get the message out to adults as well as students about the dangers of underage drinking. She teaches a prevention education curriculum in seventh-grade classes in the four counties throughout the year.
“Underage drinking is the leading cause of death for teens,” she said. “It can cause permanent brain cell loss and stunts the growth and development of the youth brain.”
Kiersten said she has seen the results of drug use – alcohol and other drugs – in both young people and adults that she knows, and “it didn’t turn out good.”
Leak said she encouraged her students to create ideas for the contest and kept reminding them about it.
Kiersten is the daughter of Scott and Merri Kee of Walnut and has four siblings: Kortni, 15, and Anthony, 10, also students at Chalybeate; Kara, 16, a student at Walnut High School; and Nathan, 19, who is in the Marine Corps.
“Lots of kids want to say no to drugs, but Miss Rita teaches us ways to say no,” Kiersten said. “If someone offers you something, offer a different activity like going to the movies or just hanging out. There’s something better to do than that.”

Contact Lena Mitchell at 287-9822 or lena.mitchell@journalinc.com.