More than 260 Fountain Hills high school students have taken a pledge to make good decisions during prom and graduation, thanks to the efforts of the Fountain Hills Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition and funding from the Fountain Hills Community Foundation.

“Thirteen years ago we were concentrating solely on high school students,” Executive Director Michael Scharnow, said. “Over the years, surveys have shown that middle school students and younger are getting into this stuff, so we’ve had to change our focus.”

Scharnow said the idea for the Coalition originally came from concerns a group of parents had about desert parties. One of the parents, Carole Groux, had experience with a drug prevention coalition while living in North Carolina. She helped form the group and apply for grants, one of which was a drug-free communities grant. As part of the grant’s requirements, the Coalition brings representatives from different sectors together to meet six times during the school year, where they watch presentations on the latest drug news and discuss community education and programming ideas.

“Bigger cities have bigger problems but there’s always going to be a certain percentage of youth who are drinking and vaping in Fountain Hills,” Michael said. “Our goal is to reduce that percentage.”

In 2022, the Coalition used the funding they received from the Fountain Hills Community Foundation to purchase “drunk goggles.” Each pair in the five goggle set represents a different level of intoxication. Students are timed doing an activity without the goggles, then timed doing the same activity with the goggles on to demonstrate how alcohol impairs motor skills and reduces reaction times.

The Coalition is using 2023 funding to sponsor the Falcon PROMise. In addition to pledge sheets for students to sign, the grant paid for a motivational speaker and recovering addict to talk to sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

“It’s been well received,” Michael said of the Falcon PROMise. “The Foundation grant has been good seed money that’s bringing in additional funding and helping fund programming at the high school.

In addition, the Coalition maintains the pill drop box at Town Hall for residents to dispose of their expired medications. The organization was also able to purchase NARCAN, a medicine which can treat narcotic overdose in an emergency situation, from the state for the local fire department to distribute as needed.

“Through surveys and other means, we’ve determined that we have lowered the number of students who have started using different substances, Michael said. “It’s all about education and collaboration. When we get everyone on the same page, get them educated and get them talking, it feeds the entire community.”