Photo: Natasha Harwood

Photo: Natasha Harwood

Alliston’s Leora Harwood, 15, will be attending the Global Alcohol Policy Conference in Cape Town, South Africa, in October as a representative of the Youth Advocacy Board for D.A.R.E. International. Retired OPP Const. Shawn Evans (left) runs the D.A.R.E. after-school program, and retired OPP Const. Harry Lawrenson is director of D.A.R.E. Canada.

An Alliston teen will soon be packing her bags to take part in an opportunity later this fall for which only a select few students from North America get chosen.

Leora Harwood, 15, a Grade 10 student at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School in Tottenham, will be attending the Global Alcohol Policy Conference in Cape Town, South Africa, in October.

Leora will attend the conference as one of two Youth Advocacy Board representatives for D.A.R.E. International.

“I’m really excited to go,” she said. “It will be a good opportunity.”

Leora was selected, along with a girl from New York, after she was chosen to be the Canadian youth board representative in May. While the United States has representatives for each of its 50 states, only one student is chosen to represent all of Canada.

In order to qualify for the trip, she had to complete a series of tasks, like creating a D.A.R.E. Instagram account and growing its follower count to more than 300 people, and organizing a D.A.R.E. presentation at her school.

Leora said she’s equally nervous and excited to visit South Africa. While she’s done a little international travelling, including a visit to Mexico this summer, she’s never been to Africa.

“I’m just excited to learn and see what it will be like, because I’ve never been to anything like this before,” she said.

At the conference, she expects to learn more about alcoholism and provide her perspective as a youth. When she gets back, she plans to share what she learns with her peers.

“I think it’s important to spread awareness so people know how to deal with it and the negative effects it can have,” she said.

Leora went through the D.A.R.E. program when she was in Grade 6. While the program is no longer offered in schools, she has fond memories of the experience and how it fostered positive relationships between students and the police.

“I also think it’s important for kids who don’t have anywhere else to learn this, like how not to give into peer pressure and how to be safe,” she said.

The trip takes place from Oct. 21 to 28.

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