COLUMBUS—More than 2,100 middle and high school students across Ohio marched in downtown Columbus as part of the 7th annual We Are The Majority Rally (WATM Rally) to celebrate healthy lifestyles and advocate for youth-led prevention.
“The We Are The Majority Rally brings together youth from all across Ohio and from all walks of life to celebrate the fact that the vast majority of youth in Ohio don’t smoke, drink, or use drugs,” said Harim C. Ellis, Director of Youth-Led Programs and the Ohio Youth-Led Prevention Network (OYLPN) at Prevention Action Alliance (PAA), which organizes the annual rally. “This year’s rally was the biggest ever, and the youths’ message was clear – they’re doing their part to prevent drug use and promote mental health wellness, and they need support from us adults to continue doing that.”
“The rally unites teens and adults alike from across Ohio to showcase that the majority of teens are making positive and healthy decisions in their lives,” said Sahana Jayaraman, a member of the OYLPN Youth Council that planned the rally. “It’s our day to show Ohio that the majority of their youth are leaders in their communities, are making an impact, and are choosing positive paths for their lives.”
The WATM Rally was led by the Youth Council of the Ohio Youth-Led Prevention Network, a network of PAA. It was made possible with financial support from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OMHAS), Verizon, and the OhioHealth Foundation.
“OhioMHAS is proud to be a part of the We Are The Majority Rally. Every year, this wonderful event empowers youth throughout the state to know that they are not alone when they choose not to use drugs,” said Tracy Plouck, director of OMHAS. “It also inspires those of us who work in behavioral health to know that young people don’t need to be ‘fixed’ but instead brought to the table when we talk about solutions to behavioral health problems.”
As part of the WATM Rally this year, Prevention Action Alliance, Start Talking!, Verizon, King’s Island and Cedar Point also hosted Start Talking! Start Recording: Ohio’s Youth Got Talent, a talent show designed to highlight the talented youth across Ohio by challenging them to share their drug-free message with others.
The winners of the talent show, decided live by those who attended the We Are The Majority Rally, were:
Aidan Sweet, of Powell, winning a $2,500 scholarship.
Teghan Reed, of Mogadore, winning a $1,500 scholarship.
The Arcanum High School Health Team, of Arcanum, winning a $1,000 scholarship.
“We had many, worthy and inspiring contestants enter this talent show competition, and I thank them for sharing their talents with us,” said Ellis. “I especially want to thank our finalists for sharing their talents and their message live with the hundreds of youth at the rally.”
“The purpose of Start Talking! is to encourage conversations with youth about the importance of being drug-free,” said Sarah Moore, Director, Start Talking! “The Start Talking & Start Recording talent contest offered Ohio students an opportunity to promote this message and encourage their peers to live a healthy, drug-free lifestyle. Thank you to the students who submitted videos for this contest and thank you to our corporate sponsors who made this opportunity possible.”
Prevention Action Alliance is a certified prevention agency leading the way in promoting healthy lives through the prevention of substance abuse and fostering mental health wellness for 30 years. PAA is nationally recognized for building networks that empower communities to create safe and healthy environments. For more information, visit preventionactionalliance.org.
Ohio Youth-Led Prevention Network is a joint venture between Prevention Action Alliance and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. OYLPN builds and expands partnerships between youth-led substance abuse prevention programs to develop and strengthen prevention efforts at the state and local levels.