Keys to Success is an anti-drug reward and education program that gives kids a reason to say “NO” and is taking strides to take back our town.
Our town has become a drug infested community with increased drug overdoses and has drawn a lot of negative media attention. In 2015, Gary VonKennel who is a 5th generation Chillicothean, but lives in Texas saw the news and traveled back to Chillicothe with a plan of action. He partnered with Jon Saxton, City Superintendent and Bill and Bart Herrnstein, owners of a local car dealership to start a program called Keys to Success. The 2017-18 school year was the third year of a three year commitment from VonKennel and Herrnsteins. This program, unlike how to get addicts off of drugs, is getting students BEFORE drugs start. This program is growing and is a positive light in a very dark area, and it is working. This program is more than testing for drugs, and it is more than trying to win keys to a car. It is a program geared to give students KEYS TO SUCCESS for their future. The three components are:
1. Don't Do Drugs
2. Passing Grades (minimum required as an athlete)
3. Be A Good Citizen (go to class, stay out of trouble, community involvement)
The big incentive of a car is simply to give students a big reason to say NO when feeling peer pressure.
This program encourages students to sign up and stay drug-free. Students agree to be drug tested at least three times per year, get passing grades and stay out of trouble with the law. If they test dirty, we get them help with our counselors. If they flunk a class we get them extra academic help. We are encouraging our students to give back to their community by getting involved as a “big” with Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. We recently partnered with them and this is huge. This is helping us get to troubled youngsters before they get to high school. No student gets removed from the program, however with a strike against them they will not be in the drawing for the car, however they will have an opportunity to win second tier prizes. At year end, provided that they have completed all three components, they will be in a drawing for a brand new car. All students in the program will also be in a drawing for $5,000 in tangible prizes provided by a grant obtained by Judge Jeffrey Benson. Students also have the opportunity to win a scholarship by writing an essay. The scholarships have been given by several local businesses who want to help the program continue to be successful and reward students for being involved. Each graduating senior who is in the program proudly wears a bright orange cord with their cap and gown. The color orange was selected by the students to represent “under construction.”
Our students have taken ownership of this program and we have increased participation from 100 students in year one to 532 students in year three.
Keys to Success is moving forward on our mission of educating and rewarding students now so that they will take this with them in life and take a stand against drugs for their future.
This program has captured the attention of Congressman Steve Stivers and he has been to Chillicothe a few times specifically for this program and has addressed our students at Chillicothe High School and at our Keys to Success event at the football field. He has also attended a luncheon in which 25 of our community's dignitaries including the mayor and chief of police attended to endorse the program and discuss ways to grow the program in to other areas. It has also captured the attention of MTV. Movie Producer, Brent Kunkle has been to Chillicothe several times to interview students who are in the program and was creating a pilot for a series for MTV. This was expected to take place in the 2018-19 school year, however with circumstances with their company and leadership unrelated to Keys to Success, they were unable to proceed.
Keys to Success in a unique program that is working and can be implemented in any school system. Students take ownership of this program and the community rallies around it.