That's the driving force for Catherine D'Amato, a wife and mother, who lost her own 20-year-old daughter Lauren "Lulu" to a car crash on Nov. 28, 2010 due to emotional distress and drunken driving.
Not only has she lost her own daughter, but more than a dozen young adults -- all Yorktown High School students or graduates - who have lost their lives to drugs, alcohol and suicide over the last couple of years.
"I know what it's like," D'Amato told Patch. "It's the deepest pain that it literally hurts but I get up every morning because my daughter would want me to, because I have a husband and daughters and a community to be involved in."
The two most recent deaths occurred just last month - a young man died of a suspected drug overdose and another Yorktown man shot himself at his father's house.
"It's important that [the school district has] a drug, alcohol and mental health awareness curriculum for these kids before they even graduate," D'Amato told Patch. "I really think education does play a role."
D'Amato said the two recent deaths is what sparked her desire to finally do something after years of grieving. She is now ready and does not want to see another parent go through the same pain she and her family are experiencing, she said.
"I want the schools to teach our kids that you can die," D'Amato said referring to the dangers of alcohol, drugs and depression.
Well before her daughter Lauren died in 2010, D'Amato, a social worker and drug counselor, had offered to provide lectures at Yorktown schools and talk to children about those dangers. But her request was denied, she said.
Now, D'Amato said, she is willing to speak at schools and have that dialogue with the students. For free. At no cost to the school district.
When reached for comment, Yorktown School District Superintendent Ralph Napolitano sent a statement via the district's spokesperson Karli Wheeler.
"We sympathize with every family who has lost loved ones, and understand their desires to help support our young people in Yorktown and beyond," Napolitano said.
Napolitano said students are provided with services of guidance counselors, substance abuse counselors, social workers, psychologists, student resource officers, DARE officers, bully prevention professionals, health teachers, assemblies, and other resources to help educate and inform students and their families of the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse and its impact.
"My passion, and it's not only because of my Lauren, because I'm tired as a mother who lost a child to see [more children dying]," D'Amato said.
She said she wants to know why those young adults are self-medicating, drinking and driving. Following a death of a child, a family falls apart because it's grieving - something her own family knows all too well.
"I don't want any more families to fall apart," D'Amato said.
In addition to a mandatory drug, alcohol and mental health awareness curriculum in order for high school students to graduate, she also wants Yorktown to hire cabs so young adults have the option of going home after a night out at the bars without the temptation of getting behind the wheel drunk.
Or, she suggests, assign undercover police officers to a cab to drive people home.
"[The police] have enough money [to do it]," she said. "Cops are doing a good job, but maybe a little bit more."
She understands these young adults who have tragically died have made their own bad choices. But doing everything possible to save even one life is worth it, she said.
"I don't think as a community we are doing enough," D'Amato said.
Hearing about the two most recent deaths in Yorktown this month is bringing up old emotions about losing her own daughter.
Even though a complete recovery from losing a child is impossible, she said, and she will never forget her daughter Lauren, and the intense pain of a heartbreak will always be there, D'Amato said she has made a commitment to lead a life in honor of her late daughter.
D'Amato, a licensed social worker, said she has saved at least seven lives by talking with troubled young adults. She said she can help anyone who needs the support.
"Making a bad decision, does not make you a bad person," D'Amato said.
Here are the district's full responses:
"The Yorktown Central School District invests over $3,000,000 annually in providing students with the professional services of guidance counselors, substance abuse counselors, social workers, psychologists, student resource officers, DARE officers, bully prevention professionals, health teachers, assemblies, and other resources to help educate and inform students and their families of the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse and its impact on their physical and psychosocial health.
Additionally, the District provides many extracurricular opportunities in the area of sports, music, performing arts, clubs and organizations to ensure that the students are occupied with a variety of activity opportunities that keep them involved and interested. The High School even provides opportunities for its varsity athletes to participate in a club, Varsity Athletes Against Substance Abuse, (VAASA), facilitated by a social worker and student assistance counselor.
Here's what the district said about how the district partners with outside groups on health and prevention issues: "With partners such as the Alliance for Safe Kids, the PTAs, the Yorktown Teen Center, Town athletic organizations and other community organizations, we strive to help proactively educate families about the importance of staying involved, making healthy choices and saying no to alcohol and drugs."
Here's what the district said about its mandated health curriculum: "The district provides health education classes to students throughout the grades consistent with the New York State Learning Standards and Core Curriculum. We sympathize with every family who has lost loved ones, and understand their desires to help support our young people in Yorktown and beyond. With partners such as the Alliance for Safe Kids, the PTAs, the Yorktown Teen Center, Town athletic organizations and other community organizations, we strive to help proactively educate families about the importance of staying involved, making healthy choices and saying no to alcohol and drugs." ... "The district provides health education classes to students throughout the grades consistent with the NYS Learning Standards and Core Curriculum."
"The New York State standards form the basis for our curriculum, as developmentally appropriate, for our students. Of course, health teachers are not the only ones who teach and address the issues involved in making healthy choices; these are reinforced by all teachers, administration and staff on a daily basis. Our hope is that of course all this work during the school day is reinforced at home, and during the majority of the child's time when he or she is not in school."
Here's a link to the state standards on health curriculum: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/sss/schoolhealth/schoolhealtheducation/healthPEFACSLearningStandards.pdf
Editor's Note: The original version of this article has been revised to include the district's response in full.
What would you like to see change in Yorktown? Tell us in the comments section below.