Rachel Durham receives award from Drug Enforcement Agency


Brielle Allison

SWAT Club Sponsor, Natalie Gomillion (left) stands with award recipient Rachel Durham, Roderick Cunningham and Denise Evans.

Brielle Allison

On Friday, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) presented Rachel Durham with an award to recognize her completion of a course on substance abuse and mental health. 

Durham is the vice president of Gaither High School’s Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) club.  

Durham completed a course given by the Community Anti-Drugs Coalition of America’s Youth Leadership course and participated in a collaborative training with DEA 360 in Tampa. 

Natalie Gomillion, Gaither High School’s SWAT Club sponsor, was there to cheer for Durham during the award presentation.  Denise Evans, Hillsborough County SWAT coordinator, and Roderick Cunningham, DEA community outreach program manager, presented the certificate to Durham.

Durham joined SWAT Club last year. After Durham had attended a field trip and accumulated some experience with the group, Gomillion suggested Durham run for an officer position in the club.  Durham became vice president and worked with the senior club officers before they graduated. 

Durham attended the 2-day course and interacted with students in SWAT-like clubs from different schools.  Durham said she was able to “learn a lot during it.” 

During the course, the students broke into groups to learn about violence, drug abuse, the psychology behind drug abuse and understanding how people’s views differ.  

“Every single group had different views, but they brought us together,” Durham said.  

“It really hit home, and going through this program really helped me to understand,” Durham said. 

Now she knows that maybe her actions will affect others too. 

After the completed Durham completed the program, Cunningham reached out to Durham about the award and teaching other students what she learned. 

Durham will be an emcee on November 13, and talk to students who will take the DEA course next summer.

“It [the award] will show that we’re not just a smoking-is-bad club. We also have people that vape in our club. It doesn’t matter who you are, we’ll help you with a step-by-step program on stopping your addictions and other abuses you have with things that can kill you in the future,” Durham said.  

The award also meant a great deal to Durham personally. 

“My freshman year, I was kind of like finding where I was. I didn’t understand what my point was. As soon as I got into SWAT, I thought that I could actually be a leader and change people’s lives. I was like, ‘Okay, we’re gonna do this.’ At a meeting, I met a lot of people who have the same views as me or different views but still understanding people and we connected through a love of teaching. There’s a lot of leaders in my family and I think I made them really happy,” Durham said.   

Durham is proud of her involvement in Gaither High School’s SWAT Club, her opportunities to teach other students the importance of abstaining from drugs and helping others to understand mental health.