SEBRING - Brittany Lauren is chock full of passion, concerns, ideas and energy to help the young and old.
Lauren, the assistant project coordinator for Drug Free Highlands, knows she doesn't have all the answers, but continues to learn all she can in the areas of prevention and recovery.
From her office in the Drug Free Highlands' Avon Park location, Lauren shared her story of joining the coalition and her many areas of concern.
Lauren relocated to Highlands County four and half year ago from Amelia Island, where she was a Realtor. She went to school full-time and earned a human services degree at Southeastern University in Lakeland.
A year and a half ago, she became a volunteer at the Children's Advocacy Center.
Four months ago, she joined Drug Free Highlands. She also works with the Go Girls middle school after-school program.
Drug Free Highlands' focus is on prevention, Lauren noted.
"We want to educate the community on prescription drug abuse or use and educate our young people on that," she said. "If the parents are aware that one of the number one abused drugs is medicine from the cabinet, they will take extra steps. A lot of times parents are na´ve and they don't think it is happening under their roof."
Along with prevention and awareness, Lauren's voice showed a compassion for those dealing with substance abuse issues.
"We also want to provide a link to hope for those who might be recovering or need to recover," she said.
With many areas and age levels of concern, it's difficult for Lauren to narrow the focus of Drug Free Highlands.
"We focus primarily on alcohol - which is a drug - and tobacco usage, but also prescription medication abuse, which is a problem with our elderly," she said. "In general, it's to educate, inform, support, encourage, promote all of these positive actions."
For example, "Go Girls is very supportive program for a very tenuous time for a young person who is moved and pulled by so much going on around them," Lauren said. "With Go Girls we want to promote and encourage girls to be very strong, independent and mature and know who they are."
Lauren also champions diversity.
Young children of different races just want to play together, she said. They don't look at another kid and say they can't play with them because they are a different color.
It's when they get older that they recognize the differences and that's when you want to get them to talk about it, Lauren said.
Lauren also spoke about mental illness and bullying.
"I just have these great ideas and while I am here I just want to serve in some capacity and this, so far, has been a great venue to get some of these things that I am real passionate about to our kids," she said.
Lauren said she doesn't have all the answers, but hopes to learn as she goes along.
"There is so much yet to learn, but I hope to learn it and I hope to pass it on."
Lauren has two children and four grandsons. She's not married. In her off time she walks, bikes and serves as a volunteer.
"So between several different places my life is very full," Lauren said.
Drug Free Highlands is a coalition of community organizations working together toward a common goal of building a safe, healthy and drug free community. The Heartland Rural Health Network serves as the coalition's fiscal agent.