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Majority draws attention

Majority draws attention
Majority draws attention
North Harrison athletes are featured on a billboard to not only promote North Harrison athletics but the Be the Majority campaign to promote a drug- and alcohol-free lifestyle. Photo by Brian Smith

Tune into a ballgame on TV and all it takes is a live camera facing fans to entice waves, screams and various facial expressions.
Many are after the attention.
Cruise by the Harrison County Fairgrounds in Corydon or on S.R. 64 near North Harrison High School and a pair of billboards recognize students making a drug-free choice.
In partnership with the Harrison County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, North Harrison athletic director Hal Pearson wanted to showcase athletes making the commitment to be drug and alcohol free.
Pearson previously had an idea for a billboard to showcase the Cougars’ athletic department, but, due to cost, tabled the wish. Some time later, a meeting with the HCSAPC’s Jeff Skaggs, who was seeking to place banners around campus, reignited the idea.
Since the fall of 2016, the billboard features athletes at North Harrison, dressed in their respective sport’s attire, proclaiming HCSAPC’s motto: Be the Majority.
‘One thing we found out was Harrison County kids don’t feel like they are recognized enough when they do good things,’ said Skaggs, referring to a risks and needs survey aimed at high school students in regard to drug prevention. ‘How do we recognize kids for doing good things and entice others to join them?’
In an effort to get pro-active, Skaggs and the HCSAPC came up with their pro-social norms campaign ‘Be the Majority.’
‘According to survey, some high school kids do use alcohol and drugs, and that is normal, but a majority in Harrison County do not,’ Skaggs said. ‘We want to be pro-active in letting kids that may be on the fence (to use alcohol and/or drugs), that the majority actually don’t use. … The truth is, most kids do not use alcohol or drugs. They just don’t brag about it.’
The meeting between Skaggs and Pearson led to suggesting student athletes at North Harrison become involved with the visual advertisements. On a drive back from the boys’ basketball Washington Regional a few years ago, Pearson noticed a billboard recognizing Barr-Reeve athletes. Putting the HCSAPC and athletes on the same campaign was a no-brainer for the newly-aligned partners.
Pearson points to the role-model status of high school athletes.
‘You always have middle schools kids that look up to successful high school athletes,’ Pearson said. ‘The middle school kids can point to the billboard and say, ‘I saw them play tennis, play basketball, run track, and I look up to them.’ Not only can they look up to them based on athletic ability, but also on other choices they make.’
Kris Freeberg, a senior UNIFIED track and field and boys’ soccer player at North Harrison, is one of the athletes pictured.
‘It’s something I believe we should support and, for me, it aligns with my morals and values,’ Freeberg said. ‘Kids at a young age, when faced with the possibilities of making those decisions, this is a way to show that there are a majority of us doing the opposite. There is a better way to do things.’
The shared partnership has gone beyond athletics. In Corydon, the billboard features a host of 4-H participants.
‘We partnered with the 4-H groups, and they loved it,’ Skaggs said. ‘The same at North Harrison. We want kids to be recognized and rewarded for doing the right thing.’
‘We incorporated athletes who took a pledge to stay drug free,’ Pearson said. ‘They were nominated by coaches and some are on our student-athlete council. It brings to light that the majority of our kids make the better choices to be drug free. We didn’t get every single person on the billboard, but we wanted to use a mixture of sports and athletes.’
Banners with the ‘Be the Majority’ campaign are featured throughout Crawford and Harrison counties at youth and high school fields. Corydon Central has one hanging above the scoreboard, an eye magnet, in the main gymnasium.
Skaggs said a grant, shared with Crawford County, has made the campaign a success thus far. He’s gone to seek additional funding resources as well.
‘I believe in getting in front of something now instead of trying to fix it later,’ Skaggs said. ‘One way parents can help is to take care of prescription drugs. Either lock them up or throw away the old ones. Talk to doctors when they prescribe medications. Are they addictive? What are the side effects? Ask questions.’
The signs and drug education is a way to aid on-the-go parents.
‘Parents are busy, and sometimes we take for granted that kids make the right decision a majority of the time,’ Skaggs said.
Education is one of the main steps.
‘Teachers and kids see the billboard as a unique thing,’ Pearson said. ‘I explained to them the importance of being on that billboard. You’re the face of being the majority.’
For a student-athlete like Freeberg, the campaign didn’t deter his values before or after the signage went up. He does offer advice to teenagers possibly facing the pressures of using drugs.
‘Stop and think if they really want that to affect the rest of their life, because it does,’ Freeberg said. ‘You may think it’s only once, it’s cool or it’s with a few of my buddies, but it’s never that small. It will affect your life for the rest of your life.’