SOMERSET, NJ - The opioid epidemic claims tens of thousands of American lives each year. For Gold Award Girl Scout Danielle T, that’s a reality she knows all too well.

After her cousin passed away several years ago from an overdose, the 18-year-old Somerset resident became determined to fight this deadly epidemic. She developed “Together We’re S.O.A.R.N.” (Stopping Opioid Addiction Right Now), an organization at Franklin High School dedicated to educating students about the critical dangers of opioids.

As part of her Gold Award Take Action Project, Danielle created a website, presented information to her high school’s health classes, helped to create posters in her web design class, and conducted yearly awareness walks during one of the school’s gym classes. 

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Danielle’s inspiration came from her aunt and uncle, who were doing their own part to educate students at high schools across the country after their son died so tragically.

“I was so inspired by all of their efforts that I knew I had to get involved in any way that I could,” she said. “When we all ban together and pledge to S.O.A.R.N., we have the power to overcome and defeat this epidemic.” 

Danielle also spoke with her local Board of Education to raise awareness of the dangers of drug use among teenagers. As part of the sustainability component of her Take Action Project, she influenced educators at Franklin High School to carry on her work. Even though she graduated last year, the graphic design classes at Franklin High School continue to create awareness posters, and the physical education class still hosts the yearly awareness walk.

“My cousin’s sudden death devastated my family,” Danielle said. “And that’s why my mission is to educate and inform teens across America on the dangers and long-term effects of drug use.”

Danielle has been part of the Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey (GSHNJ) Troop 66404 for 13 years and credits the organization with changing her life; the sisterhood she has formed with her troop can never be broken. Her achievement of the pinnacle of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience, the Gold Award, truly changed her view on the world, she added.

“Danielle and her family’s perseverance through the death of her cousin is truly awe-inspiring,” said GSHNJ CEO Natasha Hemmings. “We are so proud of Danielle, as well as her aunt and uncle, for their efforts in educating the youth of our country on the often-fatal dangers of opioids.”

To learn more about Danielle and her project, visit www.togetherweresoarn.com/.