Strength in Numbers club speaks at the annual Orange County Substance Abuse Prevention Symposium

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Mindy Hawkins

Senior Miranda Hartley sits among her Strength in Numbers peers as they speak at the annual Orange County Substance Abuse Prevention Symposium.

On Thursday, Oct. 13, Mrs. Mindy Hawkins and LBHS Strength in Numbers members Jackson Lawsky, Miranda Hartley, Ayla Keller, Mallory Keller, Dylan Vella, and club president Hayden Rohrer were invited to speak at the annual Orange County Substance Abuse Prevention Symposium in the city of Orange.

Strength in Numbers has been spotlighted for several years, due to the student-driven, successful changes they have pushed through the Laguna Beach City Council. In 2017, several of the club members spoke at a council meeting, encouraging local legislation to ban smoking. The ordinance was approved and became effective on June 23, 2017, banning all types of smoking products, including tobacco, e-cigarettes, vaporizers and marijuana.  

Each year, members of the Strength in Numbers club visit Thurston to speak to the health classes about the reasons to choose not to vape and how much physical and financial freedom students enjoy when they are not addicted to nicotine. 

“It was a big honor to be the only high school group invited to speak on the panel today,” said Hawkins. “I have been amazed at the maturity and dedication of so many of our club members.”  

During the panel discussion, several LBHS students shared their experiences.

“Our club creates a safe environment for kids to connect who are making healthy life choices,” said Rohrer.

During middle and high school years, pressures are especially high, and students’ feelings of isolation can feel overwhelming. 

“In the club, we have noticed that students are stressed about something going on, so as a club we strive to educate others about positive ways people could deal with stress instead of turning to drugs and alcohol,” said Hartley.  

Central to the club’s mission is educating younger students before they make their first unwise decision.

“Strength in Numbers helps the community by spreading awareness like speaking to the middle school health classes. In doing this, we hope that we can help the community be smart, and don’t start,” said Ayla Keller.

The club not only bolsters younger students’ resolve to maintain healthy choices, but it also provides a sense of pride and leadership for the members, as well.

“I am able to educate others, as education is the first step in prevention, and Strength in Numbers does just that,” said Mallory Keller.