1,100 students presented with "The Pledge" at Athens High School
In preparation for prom and other big events for high school students, community members in Athens County decided it was time to revitalize a program that once taught thousands of southeast Ohio students the importance of making the right decision.
“At one point, we were the largest drinking and driving awareness program in the entire state of Ohio,” said Aaron Thomas.
Thomas has been involved with the program for years, and has more than once served as an MC for the event using his DJ moniker “DJ A-roc.” At its height, the event was called “Prom Impact” and it grew to be about much more than just drinking and driving.
“From drinking and driving awareness to cyber bullying, to think before you text, to don’t text and drive, to people getting catfished, to opiate addiction,” said Thomas.
But after over a decade of successful events, Prom Impact stopped.
“It became a little burdensome. We were having between five and six thousand high school seniors and juniors at the Convocation Center at Ohio University. It became kind of a busing nightmare for the schools and it became very expensive to keep up,” said Judge Robert Stewart, a member of Prom Impact’s board.
“A couple years ago, Prom Impact was no more. There’s a bunch of different foundations that were a part of prom impact. Jimmy Childs got ahold of A-roc, couple other people. We met a few years ago wanting to have something in the spirit of Prom Impact and they came up with the idea of calling it “The Pledge,” said Athens High School Principal Chad Springer.
Springer says nothing came of the plan to move forward with The Pledge, but this year a new opportunity appeared. A motivational speaker named Alex Sheen was going to be in town, spurring organizers to get the ball rolling.
With just a few days’ notice, they made The Pledge happen for 1,100 students in Athens County. Students were fed, entertained, and given a serious message on making good decisions.
“It’s an opportunity for us to make a presentation to high school juniors and seniors in advance of their school proms and graduations about good decision making and choices,” said Stewart.
For some, it means even more than that.
“There are a lot of kids that don’t have the luxury of having that adult to say ‘I love you or be careful or have a good day,’ or whatever. So, we want them to understand from a law enforcement perspective, being officers in the schools, we care,” said School Resource Officer Jimmy Childs.