A Year of Student Achievement: RAI


“This year was full of great community service experiences.  The Bigger Picture Club sponsored a class buyout to raise money for The Nurturing Center in Columbia.  We ended up raising over $2,000 for the center.  We handed out candy and information at Airport High School’s Trick or Treat Lane to almost 1,000 kids and parents.  We also participated in the Sticker Shock campaign with our local law enforcement.  Lastly, we built and painted a Little Free Library to be placed in the detox facility at the LRADAC Columbia campus.“  Zack Rivers, M. Ed.

Bigger Picture Library

Mr. Rivers is a teacher at Airport High School and an advisor for the Rise Above It: Lexington Two Community Coalition (RAI) Airport High School club also named, The Bigger Picture Club. This is one of many RAI clubs that help students to develop leadership and community building skills while promoting substance use prevention messaging. I asked him about some of the highlights for the club this past year.


We got a chance to celebrate their accomplishments as we visited the students just before their school year came to a close and the summer fun commenced. We always treasure the opportunity to meet with the students of RAI. We love to hear from them, learn about their challenges and successes, learn about their future plans, discover their likes and dislikes, and just bond over hot slices of greasy pizza. Truly, without our students the coalition would not exist and it is my honor to report some of the wonderful things that these bright young minds have accomplished in our community over the 2017-2018 school year.

stickershock 2

Our Brooklyn-Cayce group was actively working on strategies to recruit new members. They worked on campus PSA’s, planned to participate in the December parade events, participated in full force in prom season campaigns for Out of Their Hands like Prom Promise and Project Sticker Shock, and they even passed out prom promise wrist bands as a reminder of their pledge to be substance free during the prom festivities.

Busbee end of year

Busbee Creative Arts Academy showed their creativity and compassion when they volunteered for a local soup kitchen and made banners and sidewalk designs. They were able to learn more about serving their community and some of the needs that our community has by serving poor, homeless, and elderly individuals at the soup kitchen. Their banners and sidewalk designs where used to spread prevention messaging around their campus.

Northside poster

Northside Middle school set their sights on recruitment. They made plans to build their club by creating invites. They designed and implemented a flyer campaign that used sweet treats to entice other young people to participate in their events. Then they took the opportunity to teach information about the dangers of smoking and vaping to those students who decided to join the club because of their campaign.


Susan Pipkins group at Pine Ridge Middle School stayed busy. From pizza parties and PSA’s to service project planning for each grade represented, they sought out ways to recruit and give back all year long. They were able to plan door decorations for Red Ribbon week and prepare handouts with smarties attached for our DEA takeback day. They planned refusal skills activities and had a whole lot of fun throughout the year.

New Bridge

At New Bridge Academy the students have the chance to learn from mentors. They participate in a mentor program with students from the University of South Carolina where they engage in meaningful conversation and learn an evidence based curriculum pertaining to life skills.


We are so proud of all of our students for the outstanding job they did last year and we can’t wait to see what our next school year will bring! In the mean-time follow us on social media for all that we will be working on this summer. We have a lot of exciting plans!

Alcohol Use

Celebration and alcohol use have become associated with one another in a cultural sense and a traditional sense. By the time you are a young adult, you have probably seen beer at the local professional sports arena, wine at a cousin’s wedding, liquor at the family reunion, or spiked eggnog at the annual Christmas party. So it isn’t a wonder why we might find teens drinking after their first prom or their high school graduation party. And we aren’t perplexed when there is an influx of drivers under the influence on St. Patrick’s Day weekend. The celebrations seem to ramp up in the wake of spring. What are the cost of maintaining these traditions?  And how big of a problem is it really?

            Socio Cultural Aspect of Alcohol Use

A survey produced by The Social Issues Research Center compiled sociological studies related to the cultural aspect of alcohol consumption, they summarized consistent features throughout these studies. There are two key features to point out:

  1. Alcohol has played a central role in almost all human cultures since Neolithic times (about 4000 BC). All societies, without exception, make use of intoxicating substances, alcohol being by far the most common.
  2. Alcohol-related problems are associated with specific cultural factors, relating to beliefs, attitudes, norms and expectations concerning drinking.
            National Use

According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 86.4 percent of people ages 18 or older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime; 70.1 percent reported that they drank in the past year; 56.0 percent reported that they drank in the past month.

                Associated Problems

The NIAAA (National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) reports an estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. The first is tobacco, and the second is poor diet and physical inactivity.

               Drunk Driving

Incidences of harm are not limited to the death. According to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) 800 people a day are injured in a crash involving a driver under the influence of Alcohol.

South Carolina Ranked 2nd for DUI Related Deaths:

                  Youth Use

According to the 2015 NSDUH, 58.0 percent of full-time college students ages 18–22 drank alcohol in the past month compared with 48.2 percent of other persons of the same age.  37.9 percent of college students ages 18–22 reported binge drinking in the past month compared with 32.6 percent of other persons of the same age.

Alcohol use during the teenage years could interfere with normal adolescent brain development and increase the risk of developing Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). Underage drinking also contributes to other consequences, including injuries, sexual assaults, and deaths.

NIH-funded rodent study finds molecular link between adolescent alcohol use and adult anxiety

(hot topics in news)            

                 Alcohol Use Disorder

Along with teenage use, there are several sociological, psychological, environmental, and biological risk factors for developing AUD. An estimated 16 million people in the United States have AUD, according to the NIAAA.  A health professional can conduct a formal assessment of your symptoms to see if AUD is present.  Most people with AUD can benefit from treatment.

Why Shame Keeps Patients from Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment

We’re Fighting Teen Vaping

E-Cigarette-Electronic_Cigarette-E-Cigs-E-Liquid-Vaping-Cloud_Chasing_(16161316908)Research has not yet determined the long-term health effects of nicotine vape, e-cigarette, and other similar electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). Though some studies have shown promise applying these devices for combustible smoke cessation with a harm reduction approach, there is a clear picture that e-cigarettes present a danger to teens.

There is a growing concern regarding teen use of ENDS. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, from 2017 to 2018 the number of high school seniors who had used a nicotine vape in the past 30 days almost doubled from 11 percent to 20.9 percent. The Center for Disease Control reported that e-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product among high school students 11.7 percent in 2018. The same report in 2011 showed that ENDS use among high school students was as low as 1.5 percent. This influx of substance use presents the potential for a new generation of people who are addicted to nicotine.

Nicotine is not a benign substance, especially for young developing brains. According to the National Institute of Health, developing brains are more sensitive to the addictive properties of nicotine. This makes young people more susceptible to addiction and may cause cessation of nicotine use to be more difficult. While some studies e-cigarettes are less harmful than combustible cigarettes they are not harmless. There are several studies showing that each ENDS can contain hundreds of chemicals, many of them can be harmful. The Journal of Tobacco Control published a comprehensive issue on the effects of vapor producing tobacco products that focused on a product that is still pending approval for domestic sale by the FDA. The data presented in this issue showed use of the product lead to damaged blood vessels and damage to the heart. There must be more studies done on the use of these products to determine the extent of harm that could be caused.

The FDA has declared the use of nicotine vape by youth an “epidemic” and in response, has expanded its oversight on the production and sale of these products. In a press release dated September 12, 2018, the FDA outlined a plan to restrict the access of ENDS to youth, curb the marketing of tobacco products to youth, and educate youths on the danger of tobacco products.

Rise Above It Lexington Two Community Coalition has amended our annual student survey to help us gather data concerning the use of e-cigarettes in our school community. We hope to combat the use of e-cigarettes, nicotine vape, and like devices in our schools and community. We encourage you as a community member to join us in our fight. If you have questions, concerns, or ideas please contact us.

Holiday Struggles

The day after Thanksgiving is normally when the holiday songs start to blare through my car radio and I start queuing up my favorite holiday movies. I start to conjure up old memories of family gatherings and the emotional warmth of the season. For many of us, the excitement of sharing old memories and creating new ones can make the season bright. But for others, the holiday season can bring on different emotions.

There are cultural references all around us, movies like The Grinch, or songs like Blue Christmas, that depict individuals who struggle through the holidays. Whether it is the stress of meeting expectations or the painful memory of a lost loved one, there is a spectrum of emotional experiences during this time of year that can present us with challenges.

Image result for holidays

An article in Psychology Today explains survey data that depicts an onset of sad feelings that typically increase during the holiday season. The article breaks down a survey done by the American Psychological association that demonstrated that along with increased feelings of love and happiness, this time of year was also reported to bring on feelings of anxiety and sadness.

Some may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, a condition, according to the MAYO Clinic, that is a type of depression brought on by a seasonal change.

Some are suffering with loneliness. A national survey done by Cigna (a health insurer) showed that almost half of Americans felt they lacked companionship.

Others are dealing with substance misuse disorder. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports a spike in accidents involving drivers under the influence during the holiday month.

There are so many of us struggling through the holidays in different ways. So, I scoured for hours reading tips for coping with tragedy, hardship, or stress, and I found an interesting study that I wasn’t expecting.

A study produced by Elizabeth Dunn, Professor of Psychology at the University of British Columbia and Professor of Business Administration at Harvard, demonstrated a significant correlation between the happiness of a participant in the study and charitable spending as compared to other kinds spending.

For those of us who find this a joyful time of year, let’s not forget that we can spread joy to those who are dealing with hardships. And for those who struggle with the season, giving can be a reminder that we are not alone. Sometimes there are limitations that prevent us from being able to give money, but we can also give of our time or our talent. We can give to the less fortunate or we can give our love to family and friends. Giving may not change our hardships, but there is a chance that it can lift our spirits. Have a happy and giving holiday season!

For ideas regarding charitable giving this season, contact your local charitable organizations or use the link below.

The Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017, September 16). Stress, Depression, and The Holidays: Tips for Coping.

American Addiction Centers Resource writers. Holiday Highs and Lows.

Dunn, E. W., Aknin, L. B., & Norton, M.I. (2008). Spending money on others promotes happiness. Science, 319(5870), 1687-1688.

Finding Happiness This Holiday Season.

Chatterjee, Rhitu. (2018, May 1).Americans Are a Lonely Lot, And Young People Bear The Heaviest Burden.

Blackout Wednesday: A Deadly Tradition

You may or may not be aware that today, Wednesday, November 21, 2018, will mark a boom in bar business around the greater Columbia area. Blackout Wednesday or “Drinksgiving” is the biggest bar night of the year according to an article written in Business Insider in 2017 by columnist Mike Shield.

In the article, he describes a cultural phenomenon that bar owners are embracing, tapping into and expanding the explosive market. Some drinking establishments in the article reported a 400 percent increase in sales over a normal Wednesday. And it just so happens that this drinking holiday coincides with one of the busiest travel evenings of the year.

Triple AAA is reporting more than 54 million Americans will be traveling this year for Thanksgiving. That is a 4.8 percent increase from the previous year. All of this travel along with the mass celebration can make for a deadly combination.

Emergency 911 Scene

According to an Article published by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), between 2012 to 2016 there were more than 800 drunk driving fatalities reported over the Thanksgiving weekend, making it the deadliest holiday on our roads. That reporting was from 6 p.m. Wednesday to 5:59 a.m. Monday, the week of Thanksgiving. The EHS daily (environment, health, and safety) reports that the National Safety Council estimates 433 people may be killed and another 49,400 may be seriously injured in car crashes during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. Law enforcement all over the country are ramping up the police presence in anticipation of drivers under the influence.

The takeaway from this post is to be responsible. To help ensure safer travels for yourself and others this holiday weekend consider the following:

1. Avoid drinking and driving. If you plan to drink, be sure to prepare a safe alternative method of transportation like Uber or Lyft, or designate a sober driver.

2. If possible, travel early on Wednesday and leave later on Monday.

3. Talk to your loved ones about responsible holiday preparation and safe travels.

We are all responsible for ensuring that our roadways are safe for the holidays. As we take time for the holiday season, let’s make safety a priority for our families.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!


Shields, Mike. (2017, November 22). Wednesday is 'Drinksgiving' -- One of the booziest days of the year -- and bars are bracing for it.

MADD. (2017, November 22). Danger Oncoming: Blackout Wednesday day of increased drunk driving.

Contributing Editor. (2018, November 19). Thanksgiving Holiday Brings Road Dangers.

Hall, Julie. (2018, November 8). AAA: More Than 54 Million Americans to Travel this Thanksgiving, the Most Since 2005.

RX Take back day is coming to a Location Near You!

Saturday October 27th 2018 is National Take Back day! It is a safe and responsible way of disposing of unused and expired prescription drugs.

This day was established by the United States Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration to address a massive public health issue.

6.2 million Americans misused controlled prescription drugs according to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. In that same study, it was found that most of the abused prescription drugs were obtained from family and friends, reported by the DEA website.

In light of the National Opioid Crisis, this is particularly disturbing information as prescription opioids can become highly addictive. According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2017 doctors wrote almost 58 opioid prescriptions for every 100 Americans. And even though the prescription rate of opioids has been declining since 2012, there is still an abundance of unused prescription drugs piling up in our medicine cabinets.

But wait! Before you dump those pills down the toilet. Both the European Union and the Environmental Protection Agency have found, along with environmental scientists around the world, that our waterways are already polluted with over-the-counter and prescription drug waste. According to an article published by The Guardian, in the European Geosciences Union conference in Vienna, scientists stated that the amount of pharmaceutical pollution in our waterways could increase by two-thirds by 2050.

What can we do? 

We can help in our own community. There is a convenient way to responsibly, and legally, dispose of those old prescription pills cluttering your cabinets and presenting potential hazards to your family. Bring them for  RX Take Back day! Check out the flyer below for a location near you.

Flyer for Take Back