Four central Ohio high school students, including two from Hilliard, were chosen to travel to Puerto Rico last month to help train students and young adults in how to identify and prevent prescription-drug abuse.

Four central Ohio high school students, including two from Hilliard, were chosen to travel to Puerto Rico last month to help train students and young adults in how to identify and prevent prescription-drug abuse.

Abigail Niehaus, a senior at Hilliard Darby High School, and Nick Smock, a senior at Hilliard Davidson High School, were selected to represent the Franklin County chapter of Youth to Youth International on the trip.

Jaylon Hopkins, a Reynoldsburg student, and Lillian McIntosh, a Gahanna student, joined the Hilliard students and two adult advisers. All are members of Youth to Youth International.

Founded in Columbus in 1982, Youth to Youth International is a community-based drug prevention and youth leadership program aimed at middle school and high school students, according to its website, youthtoyouth.net.

"I've presented at other Youth to Youth workshops, but this was the first time I ever traveled out of the country for it," Niehaus said.

The six-member group flew to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and was in the territory Oct. 11-14.

"We practiced our skits (and our presentations) Friday night (Oct. 11)," Niehaus said.

The students spent the following day instructing about 35 to 40 students. Most were high school students, but a few had recently graduated and were attending a university, Smock said.

The students rode buses to a site about 45 minutes outside San Juan, to a church that also served as a shelter for children.

Prescription-drug abuse is a problem in Puerto Rico despite the fact it is illegal for drug manufacturers to advertise prescription-drug products on television and radio in Puerto Rico, Smock said.

The students use dramatized skits as part of the lessons.

"We talked about the indicators of (prescription-drug) abuse and its long-term effects," Smock said.

The goal is to have students who complete training to pass along the lessons to other students and adolescents in their own country.

Niehaus and Smock agreed the trip was a great bonding experience.

Smock said San Juan did not appear as foreign as he expected; he said it reminded him of the American Southwest.

"English is (widely) spoken in San Juan. We stayed at a Marriott and the restaurants around, like Taco Bell and Burger King, were the same we have here," said Smock.

Smock said the bus ride to the church building was when he saw the abject poverty he had anticipated.

"Once you get outside San Juan, there is much more poverty," Smock said.

On the final full day of their trip, students were able to explore some parts of the country, Niehaus said, including the El Yunque rainforest.

Cardinal Health Foundation sponsored the Youth to Youth International trip.

Niehaus and Smock meet once a week in Columbus to plan local activities for the organization.

Niehaus learned about the organization in middle school. Smock followed in the footsteps of his parents, who were both members.

His mother, Jill Smock, is director of the Franklin County chapter of Youth to Youth International.

Niehaus said she plans to study political science in college, possibly at the University of Pennsylvania.

Smock plans to study criminology and is considering the University of Cincinnati.