Joe Ehrmann set the tone for Wednesday's fifth annual Youth Drug Summit at Harford Community College and sent more than 250 high school and middle school students scrambling in search of ways to rid the county of drug abuse.
Mr. Ehrmann, the former Baltimore Colts defensive lineman and now the executive director of the Door, an East Baltimore ministry serving city youngsters, shared a simple message with the students: Get away from looking within ourselves for solutions. To be truly successful, reach out to others.
With that inspiration, the students from 17 public and three private schools headed off to five workshops set up by the Youth Drug Summit co-sponsors, Harford Community College, the Harford Public Schools, the Drug/Alcohol Impact Program and the Joint Narcotics Task Force.
The theme for the day was "Pulling Together for a County Free of Drug Abuse" and Mr. Ehrmann had given the students a push in the right direction.
"The speaker was impressive," said Holly Andrews, a junior at Aberdeen High School and treasurer of the Student Government Association for the county.
Holly's classmate, Pete Ford, said he was surprised to see so many students sharing the common goal of ridding drug abuse from their schools and neighborhoods.
"We're chipping away, slow but sure," said Holly.
One workshop conducted by William Ramsey of McCormick & Co. focused on developing business partnerships.
Mr. Ramsay shared ideas on how to identify and approach community businesses for assistance, how to get those businesses to want to be involved and then how to keep them involved.
He shared a first-hand experience of how he helped the recently PTC opened Child Advocacy Center in Bel Air secure $40,000 in furnishings from community businesses.
Other workshops offered strategies in time management, recruiting, maintaining involvement, using community resources and guidelines for fund raisers.
Cpl. Steve Bodeway of the Harford County sheriff's office, and Sgt. Steve Smith of the Aberdeen Police Department conducted sessions related to drug laws.
After a midafternoon break, the large contingent was divided into several groups to brain-storm the focus question of the day: How can we keep people who are drinking off the road and what more can be done to prevent the use of alcohol and drugs?
"It's a two-pronged question," said J. Sue Henry, coordinator of the Drug/Alcohol Impact Program for Harford County. "Notice, it doesn't say 'teen-agers' but includes adults, too."
Armed with new ideas, the 12 students from each school then met to develop an action plan they could set into motion at their schools.
In the closing ceremony, a representative from each school went forth to receive a bundle of 12 red balloons from which he or she was asked to give one to each of their schoolmates participating in the summit.
All then joined hands and, led by Ms. Henry who began pulling them along, they carried their red balloons to the buses that would take them back to their schools.