Drug Free Clubs to return this fall

by Judy Stringer

After a COVID-related hiatus, Hudson High School will reinstate a chapter of the Drug Free Clubs of America in the fall. The club encourages students to make healthy decisions with rewards like food giveaways and discounts at local restaurants, and provides educational materials to parents about how to talk to their children about drug use, according to Kelly Kempf, pupil services director for the district.

It also performs confidential, mostly random drug testing of its membership, which Kempf said is a “great excuse for kids to be able to say, ‘I can’t use because I might get tested.’”

Kempf addressed the club’s future during a recent Hudson Board of Education meeting. The HHS chapter started in 2017, she said, and had 406 members during that school year. It expanded to include nearly 900 students by 2019, making it the largest chapter in the country at the time. Membership fell in 2020, because of COVID-19, Kempf said, and the club was suspended during the 2021-2022 school year “due to several COVID-related factors.”

“We weren’t able to test students in person. We weren’t able to get students together. We didn’t even have students in school all the time,” she explained.

Kempf said the district is still finalizing how much students will contribute toward the cost of the program. In recent years, $20 has been charged to club members as part of student fees. The program costs the district much more than is collected, however, and community organizations like Hudson Community First have contributed to the difference. She anticipates the student charge will be closer to $45 when the chapter resumes in the fall and said the district can use federal money earmarked for wellness programming. It will still likely need to apply for grants to help cover the cost, according to Kempf.

Angie Ferguson, executive director of Drug Free Clubs of America, who also spoke at the board meeting, said membership surveys suggest the club had a valuable impact on local students before COVID-19. The number of Hudson club members responding that they “had never” been offered alcohol and/or marijuana and that “none” of their friends use alcohol and/or marijuana both increased between 2017 and 2019, Ferguson said. ∞