West Virginia Governor Jim Justice came bearing the news that WPHS will be one of the pilot schools for the Game Changer program.

It’s a first-of-its-kind initiative that focuses on preventing drug misuse with help from fellow students.

The announcement blended that serious subject with a lot of smiles.

The first round of applause went to Babydog.

Audience members clapped and cooed as the governor’s beloved bulldog took the stage, and was helped into her own chair.

Gov. Justice was named the “head coach” of Game Changer.

“We all know, like it or not, that drugs can cannibalize us,” said Justice. “West Virginia has been ravaged, off the charts, by drugs.”

He praised the Bob Contraguerro family and their business, Panhandle Cleaning & Restoration, for their generous support making the program possible.

“I can’t thank you enough,” Justice said. “I mean that very sincerely.”

“Game Changer is going to really allow us to take a student group who is already dedicated to living a clean lifestyle and building that culture here in our building,” said Meredith Dailer, WPHS principal. “And once we build that strong culture in our building, then the plan is to take that out to our middle schools and you guys will really be the game changers for those kids.”

It gets started at WPHS next year.

It’s a student-centered substance misuse prevention movement with students as leaders to guide other kids away from even experimenting with drugs.

“What’s different now is that using drugs just one time, one of those pills could be it,” said U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld. “I’m not trying to scare anybody straight, this isn’t fearmongering. I’m just telling you the reality of it. One pill really can kill and that’s what’s different today than in the past.”

“We really won’t know the success of this until this kindergarten class of 2022 will be seniors and graduating in 2035,” explained Joe Boczek, founder and executive director of Game Changer. “That will be the first class that will have had 13 years of Game Changer prevention education and I hope to God by then we’ve put a real dent in the opioid problem.”