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FORTVILLE — Indiana’s new representative on an international youth board for drug abuse education is from Hancock County.

Maitlyn Griner, a Greenfield resident and sophomore at Mt. Vernon High School, is settling into her new role of representing the state on the Youth Advocacy Board for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or D.A.R.E. America.

The Hancock County Sheriff’s Department and Greenfield Police Department teach D.A.R.E. curriculum to fifth-graders across the county.

The youth advocacy board is made up of a representative from each state as well as international members.

Maitlyn, whose appointment lasts through her senior year, said she’s looking forward to using her position to advocate D.A.R.E. to local children going through the curriculum. Youth advocacy board members can relate to younger students who in turn look up to upperclassmen, she added.

She’s also excited to collaborate with fellow youth advocacy board members, or “YABs,” at semiannual meetings on ideas to enhance D.A.R.E.’s mission in her community. She attended a D.A.R.E. International Training Conference in Phoenix over the summer. Fundraising for local D.A.R.E. curriculum and advocating her mental health platform will also be among her responsibilities.

Sgt. Christine Rapp with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department teaches D.A.R.E. at Mt. Vernon, Eastern Hancock and Southern Hancock school corporations while Greenfield Police Cpl. Steve McCarley teaches it at Greenfield-Central schools. Rapp approached Maitlyn about applying for the board position last spring as Indiana’s former representative was preparing to graduate from high school.

Maitlyn said she was motivated to pursue the opportunity after reflecting on D.A.R.E. along with the consequences and dangers of substance abuse.

“My passion for teaching kids and helping with resistance and awareness just heightened so much,” she said. “I really want to help people live substance free… I just care about people, whether I know them or not and I don’t want them to go down a wrong path. I want them to have the best life they can have.”

Rapp said she was working with Indiana D.A.R.E. officials on recruiting a state YAB successor toward the end of the 2018-19 academic year. She set out to come up with 10 possibilities from Hancock County but quickly narrowed her list down to one after realizing Maitlyn was a freshman.

“I actually stopped looking because I just knew that her personality, her drive was going to be exactly the fit that would be great for D.A.R.E.,” Rapp said.

Rapp estimated she spends about 140 days a year teaching D.A.R.E. curriculum. She said she admires the program for its proactive approach, which is rare in law enforcement.

Serving on the youth advocacy board is an important responsibility, Rapp continued, adding it helps let D.A.R.E. officers know what they need to talk about with kids.

“It brings our current youth’s perspective to what is actually going on both in their schools and their communities,” she said. “As adults, we see it from the outside, and they see it from the inside.”

Maria Bond, director of community relations for Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation, said the corporation is proud of its relationship with the sheriff’s department and Maitlyn’s appointment to the youth advocacy board.

“This is a prime example, right here, to have a student be as passionate, with as much drive and the goal to impact others positively,” Bond said of Maitlyn. “I think it’s really, really admirable.”

Maitlyn is the second D.A.R.E. America Youth Advocacy Board Indiana representative to come from Mt. Vernon after Mitch Burk, who teaches at New Palestine High School and was one of Rapp’s first students when she started teaching D.A.R.E. curriculum 20 years ago.

Maitlyn’s mother, Stacy Griner, called her daughter’s appointment “a chance of a lifetime” and said she’s proud of the initiative she’s shown.

“It’s not at my instigating,” Stacy said. “It’s all been her.”

From Daily Reporter