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Implementing Icelandic Drug-Prevention Techniques in West Virginia Communities

Alfgeir Kristjansson, an assistant professor at the West Virginia University (WVU) School of Public Health, is implementing a successful Icelandic drug-prevention model in West Virginia schools.

In Iceland, drug, alcohol, and tobacco use in teens has been “virtually eradicated” as a result of a nationwide effort to replace unsupervised time that teens might use to experiment with illegal substances with enjoyable, more productive activities. Now, a WVU researcher is attempting to successfully establish a similar program in West Virginia to help combat the opioid epidemic.

Applied Learning Science is partnering with the community in Keyser, West Virginia to implement this approach to combat the opioid epidemic in the area. While we believe this model would work well in the community, we want to take it a step further. We believe that meaningful work is a prerequisite for navigating life’s challenges. How do you find meaningful work? Skills! Developing the skills you need for life and career is a great path to follow toward meaningful work and a better life. Why not start this skill building at an early age to help our youth achieve the goals they once thought unattainable? Through sports, children learn the value of work ethic and that through practice, we become better. Why not also help our youth develop the skills needed for career success? Some of these skills include:

  • Time management (we could all use some help here)
  • Budgeting (not just budgeting your money—saving money too!)
  • Resume writing (how to write it, what to include, where to start)
  • Interviewing (talking in front of people gets easier with practice!)
  • Career exploration (internships are a great way to “test out” a career)
  • Professional etiquette (how to dress and behave in a professional setting)

These are just some basic career development skills, but by connecting with local industries and learning what they seek in new employees, we can create specific programs to prepare young West Virginians for the jobs that await them in the workforce. A perceived lack of career paths leads youths to move out of the community to seek work in other counties or even states. We want to help change this perception and show that there are viable options worth staying for and that doing so benefits the entire community. Revitalizing the local workforce with young, skilled professionals will help attract other skilled workers and significantly bolster the local economy.

It is our goal to work with what we have and not wish for what we don’t. The opioid epidemic is a complicated issue to resolve, but we believe that helping develop our youth into skilled professionals is one method of addressing that problem. There is great support from community groups in Keyser who also want to address the drug-related issues in West Virginia and we are honored to partner with them and be a part of this effort to help the community we live in!

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