“Obion County is very rural and is located in the north western portion of Tennessee,” said Coalition Coordinator Carla Aaron. “It covers an area of 555 square miles and has over 600 farms. Reelfoot Lake brings a lot of fishing and hunting to the county. Highway 51 runs directly through the county, and I69 is being built. We border Kentucky, where there are several liquor stores, and Weakley County, home of University of Martin.
“Obion County has a population of 30,639 people,” said Aaron. “The youth population under age 18 is 6,584 and we have almost 6,000 students.”
“Obion County includes 9 municipalities: the cities of Union City and South Fulton, and the towns of Troy, Obion, Hornbeak, Samburg, Rives, Woodlawn, and Kenton,” said Aaron. “Recreational activities are limited to a bowling alley, a skating rink and the new Obion County Discovery Park. Churches account for community groups throughout the county. Sports such as youth baseball, football, and soccer also make up communities within the county. There are many social clubs including Rotary, Lions Club, senior citizens, and others.
“Some communities are more separated from the rest of the county, either geographically or socially,” said Aaron. “These communities have a much longer distance to travel to reach the county seat where many of the county’s services are located, such as the health department, Department of Human Services, the hospital, and The Boys and Girls Club.
“Obion County Prevention was founded in 2010,” said Aaron. “We have total buy in from one school district and are working hard to have more with the other school system. We have just recently reached out to some home schooling parents. As a coalition we are working harder to help law enforcement with implementing regular compliance checks and to increase our presence in faith-based and Hispanic communities.
“The growth of our youth coalition and organization of SADD in all three county high schools is something to be proud of,” said Aaron. “Our youth have been partnering with not only local convenience stores but also pizza parlors with project sticker shock to educate the community on the laws and dangers of underage drinking. They are also putting table tents on tables at restaurants to remind parents that dinner time is the perfect time to talk to their kids about underage drinking. During prom we partner with clothing stores and florists to put hang tags on tuxedos and stickers on corsage boxes to encourage youth to have a safe and sober prom.
“We got to this point by patiently creating relationships with school administrators and youth for help with identifying the youth who have a passion for creating a safe, healthy and drug-free Obion County,” said Aaron. “The youth are very busy and finding activities and times to meet when they had a spare moment was very difficult. Through trial and error we finally came up with a time that works with everyone to meet to discuss our goals. This was difficult but we did not give up.
“We initially had many struggles with meetings,” said Aaron. “In the beginning, we only met for 10 minutes each morning at three different schools. This was very difficult. If your coalition is facing the same issues, don’t give up, be persistent, be flexible and meet the youth where they are by taking into account their busy schedules.”