Change in our World, Inc. is a local nonprofit, founded in and servicing Union County. Our mission is to empower our community to combat suicide by creating relationships, finding wholeness, and strengthening others. Our vision is to see our communities fighting for the future of our young people, and our young people actively participating in our communities. We specifically bring awareness to the issue of suicide because Union County has the 3rd highest suicide rate in the state of Georgia according to the CDC 2018 report, and (our neighbors) Towns County is number one.
Change began in 2015 by helping others host community events, however, there was quickly a need expressed among the high schoolers attending our events. This led to our weekly classroom sessions with the youth that wanted to attend. This past May we had the honor of witnessing 11 of our participating students graduate high school! In addition to working with the teens in any way that we can, we also work with the students to put on community events. Not only does this get the youth involved in the community, it teaches them responsibility and servanthood. The community events are not only an opportunity for the youth but is our way of reaching out to the community. We host a range of events from our Community Christmas event to the Blairsville Corn Maze to smaller events such as Mommy and Me’s and awareness tents at local businesses.
Our overall goals are to empower members of our community to change and create their world by providing opportunities for them to grow outside of their comfort zones. Changing one life at a time is what we live for.
Socialization is a major factor in growth and is consequently our number one tool for change. For example, consider the child who thrives when they are put in environments that have positive pressures, versus negative influences. This works from birth until death, since we are created as social creatures.
The statistic we are working with is that 90% of all addiction starts in the teenage years. According DrugAbuse.org “By the time [young people] are seniors, almost 70 percent of high school students will have tried alcohol, half will have taken an illegal drug, nearly 40 percent will have smoked a cigarette, and more than 20 percent will have used a prescription drug for a nonmedical purpose. There are many reasons adolescents use these substances, including the desire for new experiences, an attempt to deal with problems or perform better in school, and simple peer pressure. Adolescents are ‘biologically wired’ to seek new experiences and take risks, as well as to carve out their own identity… The teenage years are a critical window of vulnerability to substance use disorders, because the brain is still developing and malleable (a property known as neuroplasticity), and some brain areas are less mature than others. The parts of the brain that process feelings of reward and pain—crucial drivers of drug use—are the first to mature during childhood. What remains incompletely developed during the teen years are the prefrontal cortex and its connections to other brain regions. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for assessing situations, making sound decisions, and controlling our emotions and impulses…
Drug use at an early age is an important predictor of development of a substance use disorder later. The majority of those who have a substance use disorder started using before age 18 and developed their disorder by age 20. The likelihood of developing a substance use disorder is greatest for those who begin use in their early teens. For example, 15.2 percent of people who start drinking by age 14 eventually develop alcohol abuse or dependence (as compared to just 2.1 percent of those who wait until they are 21 or older), and 25 percent of those who begin abusing prescription drugs at age 13 or younger develop a substance use disorder at some time in their lives. Tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana are the first addictive substances most people try. Data collected in 2012 found that nearly 13 percent of those with a substance use disorder began using marijuana by the time they were 14.”
At Change in our World, Inc, we are working to help young people become self-sufficient and proactive members of our community. For each $1 spent on prevention $8 are saved in federal and state aid because the young person does not depend on programs such as Welfare, Medicaid, SNAP benefits, and other available programs. Also, the state is less likely to have to pay to support them in incarceration or unemployment situations, which means they save in paying court systems and agency salaries, too.
According to The Council on Drugs and Alcohol, Inc, “alcohol is the number one drug choice of American teenagers…The only way we can interrupt the cycle of supply-and-demand is to focus on demand. Which means to focus on prevention… People usually get drugs from their friends. Or from their siblings, classmates, neighbors, coworkers or their parents’ medical cabinets…Pot is up to 20 times stronger today than it was in the 70’s…It’s much easier to prevent young people -or anyone- from getting involved with substances than getting them to stop once they’ve started… Being aware is half the battle.”
Supporting Change is supporting growth and development of the character of young people in our communities. Participants are at will, and thus we do not sugar coat the real world and reality. We are able to talk with them about the realities of their choices and are not limited by legislation to avoid some topics. We are real with our teens and that is what it takes to help them grow into whole members of society. Too many are broken and turning to band-aids such as drugs, alcohol, and sex to cover their hurts and fill their time. We purpose ourselves to help young people out of their mess and into a brighter future.