JACKSON – Breathitt County High School seniors Sandra Back and Jeannie McGuinn were recognized Tuesday, May 21, as recipients of an “I Am UNITE” scholarship.

CombinedThis is the first year for the scholarships, valued at $1,500 each.

Back and McGuinn were presented the scholarships by former UNITE Director Karen Kelly.

A total of 19 “I Am UNITE” scholarships were given this year by the UNITE Foundation, funded through private donations and proceeds from two National Rx Drug Abuse Summits.

To receive a scholarship and be named a UNITE Ambassador, students had to demonstrate commitment to their school’s UNITE Club or Camp UNITE, personal contributions to his or her school and community, exemplify UNITE’s goals by living a drug-free lifestyle, and write an essay.

“From the first breath and first day of my life I have been exposed to the drug world. … All the promise of what parents should provide for their child, I’m yet to experience,” McGuinn wrote in her essay. “I am proud to say that I “CHOSE” to be drug free my entire life. … I believe you can make it out of an unthinkable lifestyle of drug addiction.”

“Coming from a community where you not only see poverty, but also addiction, is extremely heartbreaking to me and it is also somehow motivational,” Back wrote, adding involvement in the UNITE Club has made her “more passionate to reach out to someone who is addicted or is abusing these horrid substances.”

The scholarships also come with a desktop award naming the recipient a “UNITE Ambassador,” a reminder to keep inspiring others each day of their lives.

This school year there were 118 UNITE Clubs with more than 9,500 student members in 26 counties – the largest number of participants since the initiative began in 2005.

“Someone dies every 15 minutes of a drug-related overdose. Ensuring that every person in every community understands the dangers posed by prescription drugs, and what to do when a loved one struggles with an addiction, is one of UNITE’s top priorities,” Kelly said. “UNITE believes that prevention, particularly among our youth, is the best way to reduce drug use and its deadly consequences.”