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Guest Post: Helping Youth and Turning Lives Around through Education

Al Brandel is ONDCP's featured Advocate for Action Working to foster international drug-prevention partnerships.

Throughout my career as a law enforcement officer specializing in juvenile issues, I have seen first-hand the consequences of drug use on our young people. Drugs can ruin lives and lead to a multitude of other problems, such as school apathy and low self-esteem. This creates an endless cycle.

But I have also seen the success of drug prevention programs in schools. As a former president of Lions Clubs International, former chairman of Lions Clubs International Foundation, and a current member of the Lions Quest Advisory Committee, I have visited classrooms and spoken with teachers who use our materials. Through its programs and materials, Lions Clubs International teaches respect of self, respect for others, and rejection of bullying, and it delivers a strong message to young people about the dangers of drug and alcohol use.

Because drug use knows no age, gender, race, or socioeconomic boundaries, we at Lions Clubs International know we have to share solutions with partner organizations. I have met with elected officials and helped coordinate partnerships with a number of government and non-governmental organizations – including Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, the Organization of American States Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, and the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement – in an effort to reach classrooms around the world and in my home State of New York. Today, our materials are used more than 70 countries. Our middle school program is listed on the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices, and in the Department of Education's guide to Exemplary & Promising Safe, Disciplined, and Drug-Free Schools Programs. Why? Because it works.

Lions Club International helps turn lives around and lead young people along the path to success. Our educational programs are just one part of Lions Clubs International’s global long-term commitment to youth and drug abuse prevention. If we are not giving our young people the tools they need to succeed and the wherewithal to say “no” to drugs, we are doing them a grave disservice. Education is one of the best tools available for ensuring our youth make intelligent decisions that help them stay happy, healthy, and drug free.