WI Pill & Drug Disposal
What would you do if you discovered that your community’s drinking water contained traces of someone else’s birth control, antibiotics or heart medicine? At the age of 14, I discovered that when we flush our medicines down the toilet or sink, they contaminate our groundwater, resulting in biological deformities for humans and aquatic animals. I then learned that these same drugs, if just left unsecured in our medicine cabinets, are causing the latest drug epidemic, Teen Prescription Drug Abuse. More people abuse prescription drugs than cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine combined. Further motivating me to start this project were the tragic deaths of teens across our country from prescription drug abuse. To be proactive and educate my community and the world about this issue, I decided to create a 24/7 drug collection program for my community. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) does offer a yearly drug collection opportunity. My program expands on that model and offers a consistent collection opportunity so that less people stockpile their drugs, thus there is a lower possibility that drugs may be abused.
So far I have started 6 drug collection programs (and am working on my 7th), hosted a flu shot clinic, a free sharps disposal and a free mercury thermometer swap and have helped collect over 900,000 pounds of drugs across the country that are now out of the hands of young children and teens. The program is quick and anonymous. I merged my program with my mentor’s national program and it has now grown and spread to over 22 states. Currently, Illinois has a P2D2 law on their books and I am working to enact a similar law for Wisconsin. I plan to continue my program to help all communities have the ability to set up their own programs, cost free. I want to be able to provide grants to communities to purchase 24/7 drug containers and incinerators to help them create self-sufficient programs.
I have created a number of initiatives that have changed lives. I created HOPE (Helping Our Peers Excel), a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that inspires youth to grow by utilizing community service and volunteerism as tools to encourage them to make a difference in the world. To begin empowering youth to become leaders and community activists, I created Project READ (Reading Equipment for America’s Defenders) with my brother and several teen volunteers. We were able to engage our community to come together to send magazines, books, CDs, DVDs, letters, cards, candy, snacks and games to our troops overseas. Over 1,800 pounds of reading materials were collected and over $1,200 was raised to pay for the shipping costs. I am now in the middle of my 3rd community service program, C4C (Comics 4 Change), and my goal is to use the popular genre of comic books and graphic novels to motivate students to read. This is especially useful in hooking those reluctant readers that have difficulty going from picture books to novels. So far, I and my team of volunteers have held multiple comic book fairs where over 800 children have attended. C4C has given each child a free age-appropriate comic to help engage young readers. C4C has also handed out 500 comics to public libraries, homeless shelters, youth clubs, clinics, hospitals, food pantries and police departments. Currently, C4C is countywide; however, our goal is to branch out through the state of Wisconsin, and eventually the nation.
The Fearless Changemaker
“Congratulations, You Are an Olympic Torchbearer.” That was the subject line of an email I received this March from the Coca-Cola Company, who generously sponsored 10 teens from America to carry the torch in the 2012 London Olympics. I had been selected to be one of those teens because of my community service projects. Coca-Cola supplied transportation and housing for both me and my mother for our stay in Oxford, England. That morning, I put my official Olympic Torchbearer tracksuit on, braided my hair and tried my best to remain calm. When we arrived in the small town called Ludgershall in South Western England, where I was to carry the torch, the streets were lined with people of all ages who were cheering and waving Union Jack flags. As I waited for the Torchbearer who would pass the Olympic flame to me to arrive, the crowd swarmed me, asking if they could take pictures with me or if I would allow their child to touch the torch. Everyone was filled with a buzz of excitement because of what was taking place. Finally, the runner who would pass the flame to me was in view. We met and our torches “kissed” as he passed the flame from his torch to mine. Suddenly, I realized that I was the only person on the entire planet who had the Olympic flame. The feeling was indescribable. I ran my 300 meters, and it seemed to only last a brief second before it was over and I had passed the flame to someone else on its long journey to London.