by Erin Murphy
Meet Amaya Bennett
High school senior won’t give up on preventing substance misuse
FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT said, “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”
Decatur High School senior Amaya Bennett maintains a schedule that would make any multi-tasking parent blanch in awe. In addition to being on the dual enrollment track (in which she takes college classes while still in high school), she is active in extracurricular clubs and athletics and works part-time as a tutor, score-keeper and referee. But what Bennett is most known for among her teachers and peers is the time she dedicates to volunteering for Decatur Prevention Initiative (DPI).
DPI was founded in 1992 to provide substance misuse prevention programming for youth and families. Bennett joined as a freshman and has been a part of the group’s Youth Action Team for four years. She attends the monthly coalition meetings and helps organize events. In the summers, Bennett volunteers as a camp counselor through Georgia Teen Institute. The camp works with community groups to create “strategic prevention frameworks” and implementation plans. These plans have produced outreach tools like videos on awareness and prevention walks.
“At first I was nervous because I didn’t know how I was going to connect with the groups fast enough to make a plan so quickly,” she said. “But it brought me out of my comfort zone and with one group we were able to create not just one plan, but two.”
Bennett has committed countless hours to planning and implementing prevention activities for Decatur youth. “She is a very poised young woman, with the rare ability to speak forcefully and persuasively for the things she believes in, even when those beliefs may not be popular among her peers,” said DPI’s founder Terrie Moore.
When it comes to substance abuse and prevention, Bennett says that more information needs to be put out there and made available to her peers. “Just seeing that I can make a difference through leadership motivates me to do more, to become more community-oriented,” she said.
Bennett originally came to the attention of Decatur Education Foundation (DEF), one of DPI’s coalition partners, in the summer of 2016 when she received a DEF scholarship to attend her first Georgia Teen Institute. Since that time, Bennett has volunteered for several events that were cosponsored by DEF and DPI, including the film screening of Angst in early 2019.
“We rely on student leaders like Bennett to serve as role models to their peers and conduits between the community and the student body,” said Gail Rothman, DEF Executive Director.
DEF is committed to meeting the behavioral health needs of Decatur students. With the help of DEF’s Joe’s Fund, Decatur High School has opened the Decatur Student Center – a dedicated space for students and their nonacademic needs.
Bennett plans to continue her leadership work after completing high school. She hopes to attend Savannah State University to major in mass communications and multi-media, but she insists that she’ll still make time for volunteering. “I won’t give up on prevention,” she confirmed.