SOMERSET – Rockcastle County High School has been named the 2009 UNITE High School Club of the Year for the Cumberland region.

The UNITE Excellence Award was presented during the second of three regional Operation UNITE “Piercing the Darkness of Drugs” Youth Summits held Wednesday, Sept. 16, in Somerset.

Rockcastle County High was one of the 34 original UNITE Clubs during the 2005-06 school year and has been a trend-setter for other high school clubs.

Under the sponsorship of Becky McNabb and Nancy Hale, the club consistently performs at a high level. Each year the club builds upon successes from the previous year and finds new and innovative ways to make the club relevant within their community.

Officers and other club leaders of this large group begin the year with a fun two-day “Leadership Camp” retreat that includes team-building exercises, goal-setting and guest speakers.

“UNITE Presents,” a traveling theater group that develops their own anti-drug skits, performs for community functions and schools throughout the county. Members presented a drama workshop during the 2008 Camp UNITE and have been requested to perform at schools in other counties.

The club created a newsletter, “Positive Parenting Promotions,” that was mailed to more than 900 families.

Club members have a close working relationship with the Rockcastle County UNITE Coalition, helping with horse show and motorcycle ride fundraisers that raised several thousand dollars. They have created many public service announcements for use within the community.

Rockcastle High participated in the community’s March and Rally event and performed during the local coalition’s annual Appreciation Dinner and Community Awareness Celebration.

Creators of the original “UNITE Bowl” football game – that last year included a visit by former pro quarterback Tim Couch — the club took it one step further last year by initiating a “Wipe Out Drugs” toilet paper challenge with the visiting school. More than 4,000 rolls were collected and donated to four regional treatment facilities.

They also initiated a “Mile of Pennies” challenge to support substance abuse treatment.

An annual Drug Forum allowed sophomores to ask questions of a community panel of experts. The program was used as a model at Estill County High School this past school year.

For the past two years the club has helped raise items for the elementary school’s Backpack program, which provides healthy snacks to students to eat over the weekends. The school FCA and local churches partner with this project.

Students also worked with the elementary school clubs to provide mentoring to students participating in after-school programs.

All of these activities were in addition to a host of traditional anti-drug programs and contests held throughout the school year — such as Red Ribbon Week, anti-drug concerts, raising food during the holidays, special guest speakers and drug-free prom and graduation events.