CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Madi Rawls and sisters Mackenzie and Melissa Zimmerman are not tackling your typical high school history or science project. The three quiet classmates are on a year-long mission -- letting their actions speak loudly. The soft-spoken Monacan High School sophomores are learning about a topic with potentially deadly consequences.
"In Chesterfield there was a 71 percent increase in recent years," Melissa Zimmerman said.
As part of their project, the 15-year-olds have embarked on a county-wide information blitz.
"Doctors can prescribe them, but people can get them from their relatives or friends," Madi Rawls said.
The students have spoken with fellow classmates and organized panel discussions with recovering addicts, a therapist, a surgeon, and law-enforcement. Through their project the girls have learned how easily popping pills can lead down a dangerous path.
"There is a rise in the number of teens using heroin. We’re in high school. It's eye opening because there could be teens we know who are using," Melissa said.
"The nice thing about these kids is that they know the lingo," teacher Marci Ecroyd said. "We need to be more informed. Parents need to be more informed. Teachers need to be more informed. But we need to learn from the kids."
The students, who fear public speaking, have taken their message on the road and delivered their knowledge with students at Midlothian Middle School.
"I think the kids teaching the kids is vital," Ecroyd said. "Them putting that one foot forward. And trying to make a difference is huge."
The high schoolers said boys and girls might be more apt to listen to their peers about the lurking dangers of opioid abuse which could lead to heroin use.
"I think because we are such a close age we can relate to each other more," Madi said.
"I think the project is going very well," Mackenzie added. "I think we’ve informed the community and made them more aware of the dangers."
The students will present their finding in a state-wide competition in Williamsburg. If they advance, the three friends will travel to Texas in a nationwide competition.
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