This week, 37 seventh and eighth grade students from Adlai E. Stevenson's consortium schools including Woodlawn Middle School, Twin Groves Middle School, Daniel Wright Junior High School, Aptakisic Junior High School and West Oak Middle School, gathered for 8 hours of training at Stevenson. Students learned about the negative effects of alcohol and drugs, alcohol and drug prevention in our communities, and the importance of not only making wise choices but advocating and sharing this vital information with their peers. These student leaders, called Catalyst, represent the youth sector of Stand Strong Coalition.
They learned about and discussed current local conditions in our community that contribute to underage drinking and drug use, in particular nicotine use via e-cigarettes (aka vaping). Students collaborated and plan to create a year-long campaign to educate youth, parents, and community members about the risks of vaping.
Another key concern discussed was that just saying "no" doesn't always work and that there was a crucial need to provide students with life skills such as how to resist and assert, but also on what to value when confronted with difficult situations. They understand and are determined expand Catalyst club membership at their individual schools to work on, implement, and share ideas to provide youth with more ways to say "no" to any peer pressure; conduct a parent/youth workshop; and take part in compliance checks in the community by visiting tobacco retailers and businesses that sell alcohol.
As parents, we need to teach our children resistance skills, but also teach them the values that support why he or she would take a stand on an issue. Having many conversations with your adolescents and teenager about drug use, safety, and personal boundaries increases the chance he or she will make a safe choice when asked to ride in a car with a person who has been drinking alcohol. So, as you build this asset in your child, focus not only on how to resist and assert, but also on what to value. What to say yes to. What is healthy. What is safe. Then when your child is confronted with a sticky situation, you can feel more confident that he or she will make a good decision and stand firm in what he or she believes.
The group was trained by Cristina Cortesi, Ph.D., Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator at Adlai E. Stevenson High School and Jamie Epstein, Executive Director of Stand Strong Coalition.