New teen billboards send positive message in Fairfield, around the county

Michael D. Clark, Journal-News, Hamilton, Ohio
·2 min read

Mar. 21—Despite the coronavirus pandemic's year-plus impact, a Fairfield anti-drug coalition wanted to remind the public of all the good work volunteering teens are still doing.

The Fairfield Prevention Coalition, whose members include 40 local school, government, community and business agencies, wanted to get that positive message out throughout Butler County, so 14 new billboards are now making that happen.

The billboards feature a group photo of 13 students from Fairfield High School who are volunteers helping in a wide variety of ways despite the struggles forced by the coronavirus.

The billboard's message: "Youth: Our Community's Most Valuable Resource!"

Followed by: "Most of us volunteer in our community."

"We have student coalitions in all the Fairfield schools and it was their idea," said Joe Markiewicz, director of the Fairfield Prevention Coalition. "They said if we can put posters up in the (school) hallways, why can't we put billboards up in the community?"

Up now for a week, he said the billboards are already eliciting public comments.

"I'm already getting phone calls from business owners and youth agency directors saying this is a great idea because so many talk about the bad things about young people and we want to hear about the good news," he said.

The pandemic "is why we are doing this," he said.

"Students are learning virtually, they are isolated and some of them have a lack of hope and we wanted to turn it around with a positive messaging campaign."

Gina Gentry-Fletcher, spokeswoman for the 10,000-student Fairfield Schools, said "the idea for the billboards and positivity campaign came about during the coalition's strategic planning process last summer."

"As students were forced to adjust to remote learning last school year and having already lost so much because of the shutdown, the committee looked at positive ways to celebrate their resilience. With that, came the good that they continued to do to make a difference in their communities, such as volunteering, assisting their peers and helping their neighbors," said Gentry-Fletcher.

Markiewicz said "we spend a lot of time pointing out what is wrong with the world today, but we don't spend much time on what is right with the world, including the good news about our young people."

"There are a lot of misperceptions about youth, and we need to spread the good news about them and how they are positive change agents for our community."