TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - The drug epidemic stretches far and wide, but one program is working to combat that especially among high school students.
Teenagers are continuously pressured and forced to make tough decisions. Ohio Teen Institute is a week-long camp, helping students learn how to make wise decisions and stand confidently while drug free.
"It was really life changing for me," said Preciosa Rios, a graduate of Northwood High School who attended the camp three times. "Hearing the opposite, saying no you're actually okay for saying I don't want to do that."
Preciosa went to Ohio Teen Institute or OTI for three years, twice as a student and the third time as a leader. She now goes to Ohio State University and says O.T.I. made all the difference for her staying away from drugs and alcohol.
"Looking back it helped kind of strengthen me a little bit with the ability to say no I don't want to drink," explained Rios. "No, I don't feel like doing that because I've had that experience knowing that I don't need to have that to have fun in my life."
Brittany also attended camp for three years, twice as a student and once as a leader. She will go back as again as a leader this year.
She says O.T.I. helped her open up to others while impacting her future. She hopes to do the same for others.
"I enjoyed it so much," said Brittany Reichow. "It was incredible and fun and I think I can go back and be one of the leaders that helped me, so I'd like to do that and help someone else."
The week-long camp has guest speakers, workshops, dances, games and much more. While students leave changed, the camp numbers are dwindling, and in the midst of the drug epidemic organizers say the program is critical for high schoolers.
"This is a great group because they have adults that they can connect with as well as youth that are making positive decisions and encouraging them to make positive decisions," said Jeanine Lindquist, Wood County's Teen Institute coordinator and a drug prevention specialist. "So, it's just to build them up and give them the strength they need to succeed."
O.T.I. camp is the week of July 17th through the 21st at Heidelberg University. Registration is open until June 15th, and after there will be a late fee. If you want to learn more or sign-up for the camp, you can visit their website.