Peer pressure can be a powerful influence in a young person's life.

Peer pressure can be a powerful influence in a young person's life.

A local program aims to utilize that power in a good way, through a network of local students who encourage each other to live without the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Youth 2 Youth was founded in 1982 in Columbus as a community-based drug prevention and youth leadership program focused primarily on middle school and high school students. It came to Union County in February 2011.

Mike Garey, who serves as a Youth 2 Youth adult facilitator from Maryhaven at the Mills Center, said the local program started under the umbrella of the Union County Drug Free Coalition.

"Y2Y serves as a youth leadership program that encourages young people to be positive role models to each other," he said.

"The goal of its many projects is harnessing the powerful influence of peer pressure -- making it a positive force that encourages young people to live free of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs."

Other local organizations also contribute to the program.

"We receive funding (staff salary) from a variety of sources including the United Way of Union County, the Mental Health and Recovery Board and Maryhaven," Garey said. Maryhaven is a behavioral health-care provider that specializes in treatment of addiction.

Youth 2 Youth is active at all of the area middle schools: Marysville's Bunsold Middle School, North Union and Fairbanks.

"Our participation varies from school to school. We have a half a dozen teens at one school and 15 to 20 involved at another. ... It's often hard to gauge. On average, I meet with 20 to 25 teens a week," Garey said. "We are always trying to recruit and get more teens involved."

Bunsold middle school students meet on Tuesdays, with students at North Union meeting on Wednesdays and at Fairbanks on Thursdays. Each week, participants play games, eat snacks and plan activities during the hourlong sessions. Meetings also are held at each high school once a month.

"We try to hold three to four countywide events each fiscal year. We also hold smaller events and offer scholarships for kids to go to the Youth 2 Youth International Conference," Garey said. This year's conference will be held in June at Capital University in Bexley.

Special events have included a Dec. 14 holiday bowling night at Marysville Lanes, which drew just eight students due to wintry weather. On Jan. 31, Youth 2 Youth held its third annual Lock-In at the Marysville YMCA, where about 100 teens swam, did yoga and played dodgeball, basketball and Minute to Win It.