On the front line: Miss Tennessee shares message of substance abuse prevention

Published 7:43 pm Thursday, October 12, 2017

Children in Carter County and Elizabethton have the chance to break the cycle.
That was the message spread throughout the community Thursday as Miss Tennessee Caty Davis started the first of a two-day tour of schools in the city and county.
Working alongside Carter County Drug Prevention Coalition (CCDP), Davis visited a handful of schools Thursday and participated in the annual home-school Nerf War at Elizabethton Parks & Recreation.
“Everyone has been so accommodating. I’ve seen billboards, posters and other things and that really makes me excited to know that drug and substance abuse is being promoted to the children and not being swept under the rug,” Davis said Thursday.
At each of her stops, Davis spoke about the “Starters Never Start” campaign and talked about her own campaign, which focuses on drug and substance abuse and instilling positive characteristics to children.
“As Miss Tennessee, I am Governor (Bill) Haslam’s spokesperson for character education,” Davis said. “Whether it’s anti-bullying, respect, my goal is to leave students with the notion and message that you don’t know what your peers are going through and being positive can help you in life.”
Prior to Thursday’s event, it was announced that Count It! Lock It! Drop It! entered into a partnership with Miss Tennessee to help educate citizens on prescription medication and ways to keep medications safe.
Tackling the problem of drug and substance abuse is key issue for Davis.
Miss Tennessee is open to share the story of how addiction has affected her life. Davis’ grandfather battled with alcoholism and lost his life in a vehicle accident when her father was 14 years old. Davis’ father and half brother also took their own lives while battling with addiction.
“This has been a healing process as much as a changing process for students,” Davis said. “I’ve seen rehab and recovery. I’ve seen relapse … how addiction changes you. My goal is to let them know that if Miss Tennessee can overcome obstacles, so can you. That’s why at each of the schools I want students to know that they can break the cycle and they can follow their dreams.”
It’s a busy, but fulfilling, task being Miss Tennessee, according to Davis. Throughout the year, Davis estimated she speaks to 70,000 students while traveling 80,000 miles across the state.
Along with school visits, Miss Tennessee added another project she delves into is visiting hospitals that see neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) children. Davis serves as the state ambassador for the Children’s Miracle Network.
“From the traveling, it’s safe to say one in every three people I meet have a tie to addiction,” Davis said. “Children, parents, grandparents, staff … everyone is affected one way or another by addiction. When we reduce the stigma of addiction, and realize it’s a brain disease more than a moral failure, the better we can be to address these issues and help people.”
Davis, a University of Tennessee graduate, was crowned Miss Tennessee during the last week of June this year. Other titles held by Davis include National Spokesperson for Facing Addiction, Official Friends of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt Board Intern and as Volunteer Tennessee’s Honorary Board Chair.
The list of titles also grew by one Thursday. To go along with the visits to school children, Davis put away the heels and took to the Parks & Rec gym to play with children during the Nerf War.
“I’m wearing heels but I did bring my flats,” Davis said with a smile before grabbing a nerf gun.
Thursday’s event at Parks & Rec was presented by the department staff, CCDP, UT – Extension and the Elizabethton/Carter County Public Library.
Davis will also be touring other schools Friday with former Harlem Globetrotter John “Jett” Williams.

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