The Acorn Newspaper December 4th, 2015 Camarillo CA
Saving Lives welcomes new Coordinator
Laurie Jackson wants to use personal experiences to help others
By Stephanie Sumell
Laurie Jackson said helping young people avoid the perils of drug and alcohol abuse is more than just a job. It’s a calling.
The recovered alcoholic—she has been sober for 14 years— watched her older daughter develop a dependency on marijuana during her senior year of high school.
The teen, who removed truancy notices from the mailbox so her parents wouldn’t know she was cutting class, went to great lengths to hide her addiction.
“I watched my daughter disappear into a shell of a person,” said Jackson, 57. “She didn’t think pot was addictive, but within six months she was smoking every single day.”
Jackson, whose daughter has been sober for 11 years after spending time in a treatment center before graduating from high school, said the ordeal—coupled with her past struggles—inspired her to help others.
She took her post as the new coalition coordinator of Saving Lives Camarillo last month to help children and teens lead happy, healthy and productive lives.
The federally funded nonprofit organization has worked to educate the community on drug- and alcohol-related issues since it was founded six years ago.
It offers classes on a variety of topics, including drug-use prevention, and helps pay for supervised after-prom parties for Camarillo, Newbury Park and Rio Mesa high schools to keep students safe after the big dance.
The organization, which arranges for speakers to visit local middle and high schools to talk about the dangers of illegal drug use, also holds monthly meetings in which community members work together to promote a healthy environment.
“I’m so excited,” Jackson said of her new role with the nonprofit. “I’m looking forward to every piece of it.”
Karen Wrolson, her predecessor, will be returning to her home state of Wisconsin to work with truant youths. She worked for the faith-based organization for a year and a half. She was also a columnist for the Acorn.
Wrolson, a drug and alcohol expert who served on the committee that interviewed candidates for the position, said Jackson was the best person for the job. Wrolson’s last day was yesterday.
“Laurie is going to be an excellent replacement,” she said. “She has a great background with helping people with chemical addiction problems, both personally and professionally.”
Several years ago Jackson and her daughter began speaking to middle school students in Ventura about their struggles with drugs and alcohol.
“One of the many things a recovered alcoholic ought to do to stay sober is to help people,” Jackson said.
“The passion I have for (educating others) comes from the realization that kids that use alcohol or drugs before they are 20 are five to 10 times more likely to become an alcoholic or an addict.”
Jackson said she is committed to doing everything she can to prevent that from happening.
She will work closely with Rabbi Aryeh Lang, the executive director of Saving Lives Camarillo, and other staff members to provide adults and children with the tools and resources they need to combat drug use.
Jackson will spend part of her time garnering support from individuals and businesses to keep the organization afloat. She will also seek to increase parent involvement in Saving Lives activities.
“This is really, really personal,” she said of her motivation to serve the community. “I’m looking forward to it.”