It wasn’t long ago that Kaitlin Lansing, a teenager from Waverly, OH was thinking about ending her life.
She felt alone and ashamed by how her life had progressed after he parents got caught up in a cycle of drug addiction and jail.
Lansing thought she was the only one dealing with the psychological and emotional pain she endured so far, but she found out that wasn’t the case thanks to an unlikely source.
Captain Dennis Crabtree with the Waverly Police Department held an assembly at Lansing’s school where he talked about a recent student suicide.
He noticed during the discussion several students had become emotional and that in a twist of fate, he had arrested many of their parents for drugs years beforehand.
He gathered the kids together and they formed a group that calls itself Hurt to Hope, and for months they have leaned on each other and learned to trust someone enough to share their pains, and joys for that matter.
The group of mostly females is now a tightly knit force for good.
Last year they visited then Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger at the Statehouse to see if there was anything he could do to help them bring hope back to Pike County.
He had them sit down with Governor Kasich who was deeply moved by the girls that visited him.
After the meeting, Kasich pledged to do whatever he could to make the situation better for them and the dozens of other teens living in despair in Pike County.
He asked for 20 million dollars to be put into the budget to make sure community centers that provide programming for young people could have access to funds that will keep their spaces in good condition or create them if they needed to.
At the same time his administration began working with the girls group to develop a program that was launched today.
The program consists of access to safe spaces for children of drug addicted parents and counseling for them if they need it. It is driven by community investment, through volunteerism and mentorship.
Having heard the need for assistance in Pike County and about the group during the Governor’s State of the State speech this year, the local Walmart was moved to donate $20,000 to the program success here in Pike County.
Kasich, thrilled to see the financial investment by local businesses says money is great, but more mentors and volunteers are needed.
Since the girls started their group things have turned around for its members.
Those who were failing in school are now getting better grades, and those thoughts of suicide have been replaced with hope and real friendship.
Kasich says, if this pilot program can work here in Pike County, it can be rolled out to other counties where kids are suffering in the same situations.
He also said that financial help from the state is there, but wealthy counties should be able to do most of the heavy lifting on their own, while the poor Appalachian region should get more assistance.
As for Lansing, her hope has been restored.
“Before this, I really just didn’t think that I could ever be anything just because my parents weren’t anything,” said Lansing. “I didn’t grow up with money and I didn’t grow up with a happy life and the perfect life that I would have wished for… With this, I just feel like I can do so much more.”
Currently, a bill seeking to further assist young people across Ohio is waiting for lawmakers to act upon it.
House Bill 508, also known as OhioCorps, passed through the House Chamber and is waiting for Senators to hold hearings on it.
The bill would create a statewide program that aims to provide at-risk students with guidance and a path to higher education through a mentorship program.
The mentors would be college-age students that would receive a stipend for their participation if their at-risk student completes the program while the at-risk student gets a $1,000 scholarship toward higher education.
The bill still needs to pass through the Senate before the Governor would have a chance to sign it.
Lawmakers are off again this week, holding no committee hearings on bills for the fourth week out of five ahead of next week’s primary election.
They are expected to return to the statehouse for a few weeks of hearings before taking several months off over the summer.