Carolyn Weems, a member of the School Board of Virginia Beach since 2002, has been named the 2017 Director’s Community Leadership Award recipient by the Norfolk Field Office of the FBI. Weems was selected for the honor for her dedicated work in opioid abuse prevention and education.
“In 2013, Mrs. Weems and her family were drastically impacted when her daughter, Caitlyn, died of a heroin overdose. As a result of the painful journey, Mrs. Weems began working on the national, statewide and local levels to promote awareness and education about the devastating opioid and heroin epidemic that our country and community are experiencing,” read the FBI press release on Weems. “Her direct involvement with education about prescription drugs and opioid addiction have impacted the community and merit special recognition.”
Weems’ work for drug abuse prevention is multifaceted. She served on the Governor’s Task Force on Prescription Drugs and Heroin and is co-chair for the Hampton Roads Opioid Working Group, which strives to develop comprehensive, community-driven solutions to the heroin and opioid crisis in Virginia. Specifically, she leads the group’s Outreach Team, which focuses on education and awareness efforts. In that role, she worked with the Virginia Beach City Public Schools Department of Teaching and Learning to expand the division’s drug awareness curriculum.
“Mrs. Weems refuses to let the loss of her daughter be in vain. Instead, she is using all that she learned through her own experience to draw attention to the need for early education around opioid addiction,” said Dr. Aaron Spence, Superintendent of Virginia Beach City Public Schools. “Thanks to her collaboration with staff, we are now teaching children as young as first grade about the potential dangers of prescription drugs.”
That expanded curriculum is now being presented to the Virginia School Boards Association and the National School Boards Association for possible implementation in other school divisions throughout Virginia and across the country.
In addition to the Hampton Roads Heroin Working Group, Weems partnered with the Virginia Attorney General’s Office for the documentary “Heroin: The Hardest Hit.” She is also is working to establish her own nonprofit organization, Caitlyn’s HALO, which will be dedicated to Helping Addicts and their Loved Ones.
“Carolyn courageously shares her personal story and advocates tirelessly to help people understand how easily the use of a legally prescribed drug can become an addiction,” said School Board Chair Beverly Anderson. “Moreover, she seeks every opportunity to remind families and our community that addicts are not bad people; they are sick people struggling to be well.”
Weems will be formally recognized for her work Thursday, Dec. 14, at a special presentation at the Norfolk office. Then, in 2018, Weems will join other Director’s Community Leadership Award honorees from across the country to receive the award from FBI Director Christopher Wray at the FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C.