Nine schools were honored with Excellence Awards for being named UNITE Clubs of the Year during the regional Operation UNITE “Piercing the Darkness of Drugs” Youth Summits held September 15-18, 2009.

Honored as UNITE Clubs of the Year from the Kentucky River region were: Carr Creek Elementary (Knott County), Whitesburg Middle School (Letcher County) and Wolfe County High.

Honored as UNITE Clubs of the Year from the Cumberland region were: Mt. Vernon Elementary (Rockcastle County), Rockcastle County Middle and Rockcastle County High.

Honored as UNITE Clubs of the Year from the Big Sandy region were: Clearfield Elementary (Rowan County), Millard Middle (Pike County) and Sheldon Clark High FCA (Martin County).

Each winning club will receive an additional $750 to be used for drug education, mentoring or community service projects during the current school year.

During the 2008-09 school year there were 3,676 members of 79 UNITE Clubs – 46 elementary, 15 middle and 18 high – throughout southern and eastern Kentucky counties.

“Because of the outstanding effort being demonstrated by these clubs it was difficult to decide on a single winner for each level, so this year we decided to honor the top performers in each geographical region,” said Karen Engle, director of UNITE. “The impact these students are having reaches beyond their individual schools. They are touching lives and making a difference in their homes and communities.”

UNITE Clubs function like any other school organization, but with a specific mission to help youth develop healthy attitudes and behaviors by learning and practicing life skills; enhancing academic performance; connecting peers, adults, communities; and learning through service.

“Research has shown that the more protective factors or assets a child has – such as high self-esteem, good grades, adaptability, and positive relationships – the greater their ability to resist destructive behavior influences such as drug use,” Engle said. “While the challenges of youth development are both immense and complex, school systems have an ability to instill deep, lasting changes in people’s lives.”

“Young people are responding to the drug crisis in great numbers across the region by taking a personal stand,” said Fifth District Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers. “UNITE Clubs need encouragement, support, and guidance from parents, teachers, and the community as a whole. Together they will change attitudes about drug use among their peers and make it unacceptable to alter their minds and hurt their bodies with drugs.”

This will be the fifth year UNITE has provided funding for anti-drug clubs in the schools. Since inception, there have been 156 clubs created in 32 counties, with more than 18,000 students registered as members.