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Teen awarded a scholarship for lifestyle changes

Dale Thompson, Of the Record staff

She suffered a stroke at the age of 15, her weight plummeted from 140 to 87 pounds and Jeanine Atherton’s grade point average dropped to a 1.5.

A Park City High School junior, Atherton reported all of this was the result of her addiction to meth, which began with alcohol.

"It was kind of a progression," she said, adding her drinking lead to marijuana use which brought her to cocaine and meth.

Since then she has cleaned up her life, and for doing so Taxis Against Drunk Driving awarded her a scholarship last week. T.A.D.D. was founded in December 2004 by Audie Wheeler, and encourages people to call their service if they have been drinking and don’t feel capable of driving home.

Director Marty Ogburn said they have given approximately 1,100 rides since starting the operation. If a person has used their service, but received a parking ticket for leaving their car somewhere over night T.A.D.D. will help the fee get waived.

This is their first year offering a scholarship to the high school. Starting next year they will contribute to the community scholarship program, offering it to a student who has been involved with alcohol and bounced back.

For more information about the scholarship call 655-TADD.

"Basically we want to take someone like Jeanine; she’s turned her life around and we want to help her as much as possible," Ogburn said.

The road to recovery for Atherton has taken time.

"There’s a lot of responsibility that I had to earn and learn," she said.

After a difficult move from her home in Detroit, Mich. Atherton said she was battling depression and later began dappling in drugs.

"I started partying. Park City is well known for meth, it’s pretty easy to get here," she said. "I got addicted. I used it once and wanted it again."

Soon Atherton found herself using all day, every day, which had a negative impact on her health.

"I was having problems breathing, I had a stroke at the age of 15," she said.

Near the end of the 2005 school year, Atherton was suspended from school for drugs. When she appeared in court Atherton was sent to juvenile detention for 3 months.

"I was 87 pounds when they checked me in to D.T. the first time," she said.

Her time at the detention center was followed by a half-year stay at The Odyssey House. She also participated in a day treatment program at Valley Mental Health before returning to school. Once back, she fell in with the same crowd of people and relapsed.

But Atherton learned from her mistakes.

"Keeping a positive attitude and surrounding yourself with positive people helps," she said.

Now. she said. seeing her old friends is a reminder of the path she doesn’t want to go down again, and it has pushed her harder.

With the help of new friends and support from her mother, Atherton has been able to stay off drugs for nearly 10 months.

"My mom is a very loving, caring person. She is the only one besides my grandma who has been with me through this whole thing," she said.

Her weight is back to normal and she earned a 3.6 g.p.a. on her last report card. She also holds a steady job and works 35 to 40 hours a week. Atherton said one thing that has helped her is having something to look forward to.

"Right now I’m just looking forward to my senior year and maintaining my good grades," she said.

Atherton plans to take classes over the summer and graduate early. Her ambition is to attend Le Cordon Bleu Schools, a well-known culinary school with locations all over the United States. She has her eye on either the Las Vegas or California location.

Ardovino said she was very proud of Atherton for the strides she has made and is proud of her for taking responsibility for her actions.


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