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How XFoundation Empowers Educators Like Me to Tackle the Fentanyl Poisoning Crisis
It’s spring break for my school district, a much-needed week off for everyone. When we come back from break, boys’ track and girls’ volleyball will be in full swing, with soccer coming up soon. This year, we have students participating in sports that otherwise would not have been able to, because of the XFoundation Athletic Scholarship. 
The XFoundation Athletic Scholarship is truly a dream come true for what I hope to accomplish as an educator. I did not always want to be a teacher but I always wanted a community no matter where I lived. I wanted people I could count on, places for the youth to go before and after school, and opportunities for everyone in the community, regardless of whether they have kids or work in a school. XFoundation is making this dream a reality.

I realized I wanted to teach when I got so much joy from just working with young people in swim lessons, at summer camps, and as a coach. I felt proud of my part in their success and just knowing how incredible these generations are and how important they are to our future as a society.
When I switched my major to education, I focused on community-based schools and how they can make drastic positive impacts in the areas they are established. Then, I started my first official job as a middle school teacher in Colorado Springs and knew I wanted to make this school a community center. It already was in many ways; I just needed to build on what was established here. 
It is not easy to make changes and implement new strategies or systems in my middle school and district in general. Anyone who is in education understands this fact. If you want anything done, you have to do it yourself. Also, don’t forget to tell the 15 other people who may be in charge of this system that you want it to change, who never answer their emails or Teams notifications.
Change is difficult in education, but it is infinitely more challenging to have uncomfortable conversations about the realities of fentanyl poisoning, the opioid crisis, and the impact it is having on young people to those very same young people. 
Going into this profession, I knew it required me to wear many hats. I heard it so often, “teaching is just one of the many things you will be doing every day.” I knew going in that I would be a counselor, parent, friend, and sometimes even a nurse on the fly. However, I did not know that I would need to be on the lookout for fentanyl poisoning, or that I needed to keep NARCAN in my purse because it is only available in the nurse's office, which happens to be on the other side of my school building. I did not know that some of my very own middle school students could be exposed or may already be exposed to fentanyl. I didn’t know the severity of the situation until I met Madison and George Gerchow and heard their story. 
When I think of Xavier Gerchow and how he was a senior in high school. I think about the juniors and seniors I spent 2 years working with at my previous school, and how excited they were to graduate and go to college, how hopeful they all were. I think of when I was in high school, how I wanted to grow up so badly and leave my little hometown. Xavier never got the chance to see his dreams and future come true because of half a pill of what he thought was a percocet for pain relief. Many people I know, including myself, have endured a similar situation, taking something for pain relief from a trusted friend. The only difference is what Xavier took was almost entirely fentanyl. He had no chance, and that simply breaks my heart. 
I had heard about fentanyl, but I never paid any true mind to it. I never realized how close to home it really is for everyone. 
Fentanyl poisoning is the leading cause of death for people aged 18 - 49, an immediate reality welcoming high schoolers as they enter the “real world.” I have been to district attorney-hosted events to discuss the fentanyl poisoning crisis and what we are doing to address it here in Colorado. But it scares me if I am being honest. There has already been a similar incident in my school district in the last 5 years, where a high school student lost their life to fentanyl poisoning while IN class. It worries me that my students could be the next statistic and that I am not doing enough to prevent fentanyl from taking more lives. 

Montana at District 11's District Attorney’s fentanyl awareness panel.
Being a part of the XFoundation has given me an outlet to ease my fears. They will never go away, and they are just part of the many fears I have for my students and my impact on them. But I can do something about it. I can bring partnership to my school and increase awareness, accessibility, and opportunities within my district for students and their families. I can open up the conversation about fentanyl awareness to other educators, school staff, and members of the community. I feel grateful to be a part of this mission and know that I am making a difference for my students and community. 
Other teachers, parents and community members can do something about this crisis. We do not have to sit idly and watch our young people die. We can work to have NARCAN available in all schools, in most classrooms, and promote administration training for teachers and school staff. We can raise awareness and create partnerships with community stakeholders. We can give our youth positive outlets that promote active and healthy lifestyles, and teach them to make conscious and safe decisions regarding their bodies. As educators, we can be informed, make smart, quick decisions and be prepared in the worst-case scenario if we need to administer NARCAN.
I am of the belief that everyone deserves access to a free and quality education, regardless of who they are and where they came from. I would be doing my students a disservice by not educating them about the fentanyl poisoning and opioid crisis that our country is facing that directly impacts their lives. 

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