After the Red Oak High student body was surveyed about the use of alcohol, marijuana, vapes and prescription drugs the results were surprising.
And the surprise was a good thing.
Red Oak students have since assembled to reverse the perception that all students use some form of an illegal substance. The group of advocates — dubbed the "Impact Street Team" — is focused on positively promoting students to stay drug-free and make beneficial decisions to be committed to staying substance–free.
A baseline survey conducted in the fall of 2018 serves as the structure of the student-led campaign.
Data from the survey showed that 87 percent of students had not used alcohol in the past 30 days, 92 percent of students had not used e-cigarettes, vapors or hookah in the past 30 days, 93 percent had not smoked marijuana in the past 30 days and that 94 percent of students had not used prescription drugs not prescribed to them in the past 30 days.
Andrea Jones, the intervention and support counselor, serves as the staff advisor of the Impact Street Team and requested teachers nominate students who stuck out at leaders, exhibited moral character and were quality students.
“They didn’t have to be popular but liked and respected by their peers,” Jones added.
A total of 46 students meet during their advisory period to brainstorm ideas to empower students through the campaign. The students are guided and supported by the nonprofit IMPACT Communities. Impact Communities received a donation from Red Oak ISD Project Success to implement the actuality campaign at ROHS which includes a $4,369.26 grant.
Shari Phillips, program manager, and Jennifer Heggland, coalition coordinator, work closely with the students on how to best utilize the grant for the campaign.
“We wanted to bring this awareness that, ‘Yeah, not everyone is doing drugs, and these kids do great things.’ That empowers the kids to get the message out,” Phillips said.
After the Impact students saw the data showed the majority of people are substance-free, they took it upon themselves share this information with the entire district and erase the misconception that it’s cool to be under the influence.
The campaign was strategically rolled out in phases to draw attention to the project.
Posters — designed by students — that represent the data found for each focus-point were posted around campus. IMPACT Communities had them professionally developed and printed.
The posters were vague with a percentage with no explanation and incorporated a “Charged-Up” theme created by Mykala Elder. After the signs stirred up questions around the school, Street Team members unveiled the meaning of the percent of students who are substance-free on each poster.
Every Impact student distributed the results from the survey to peers on small colorful sheets of paper. The handouts included the results for drugs, tobacco and alcohol with facts on each substance. Students also sacrifice their lunch period to educate their peers on these topics on a more personal level.
By the end of the school year, the Impact Street Team will take the message to the rest of ROISD, speaking to all grade levels.
Jones shared that the experience has made an impact across the campus and individually with the Impact Street Team members as well.
Jones acknowledged her personal connection with substance abuse and that her older brother used drugs most of his life because his peer group influenced him.
“They know it’s peer to peer. Often times it’s the relationship piece that leads you to trust somebody enough to risk your own life,” Jones emphasized.
Two student advocates shared the reasons they are passionate about the organization is because they have seen first-hand that substance can negatively affect those who are loved most.
Before senior Jordan Mosley was asked to participate in the club, she knocked on Jones’ door for support after her 31-year-old cousin died of lung cancer.
“A lot of my family members struggle with an addiction to tobacco,” Mosley disclosed. “It’s more than just a habit when it comes to a pack a day or two packs a day. Everyone starts having issues, the family is not functioning like it used to, and if it’s not the smoking, it’s the drinking.”
Mosley, dressed in scrubs from her on-campus practical, expressed hope that her family recognizes her involvement in the club will initiate quitting a habit that kills more than 480,000 Americans each year, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Data collected showed 41,000 of those deaths were from exposure to secondhand smoke.
“Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of death and disease in the United States,” states the CDC website.
Mosley also shared the posters that exhibit the actual number of students who are substance-free has made an impact on campus.
“It was nice to be able to flip the narrative to catch their attention, and they are actually coming up to us and sparking some minds,” she explained.
Mosley continued, “Even when they have torn down the posters, I know that I caught your attention and that guilt. At least they are reading it.”
Mosley continued to explain the reason she hates drugs is because of what they do to a person’s life.
Another advocate, Joshua McAlister, 16, donned a ROHS Naval JROTC uniform as he shook his head in approval of Mosley’s opinion.
Substance abuse in his family caused dysfunction and eventually a transition in and out of foster care. It was not until McAlister and one of his sisters moved to Red Oak that drugs and alcohol were not abused in the home.
His parents separated, and his mother became addicted to Adderall, which is a prescribed stimulate used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Rehabs.com published the non-medical benefits have been the reason for its abuse, as it is reported to increase focus, suppress appetite and decrease the need for sleep.
“She stopped functioning completely, we didn’t eat anything, and we didn’t know what to do. I was very young,” McAlister disclosed.
He spent the following six years in foster care in Connecticut and eventually moved in with his grandmother in Michigan, waiting for the ideal time to move back in with his father. McAlister then moved to Rhode Island with his father in the sixth grade and, unfortunately, was exposed to the adverse effects of heavy drinking, which led his father to exhibit verbal and physical abuse.
“Things just fell apart, and then we went into foster care again,” he said.
His aunt and uncle, who reside in Red Oak, took him and his sister in September.
“Red Oak has helped me grow, and with the Red Oak Street Team, we all have a goal together to help stop drugs and make people more aware of them,” McAlister shared. “[...] I want them (peers) to be familiar with what drug abuse can do and have them more aware of what they are taking or doing.
He added, “I just don’t’ want the students around me to grow up like parents like that, so their kids won’t have to go through the same thing I did as well as my siblings."
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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450