By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Lisa Wells wanted to make sure that she and her niece, Alexis Clark, have the facts when it comes to teen drug use.
“There’s a lot of different drugs out there that I’m not aware of,” Wells told the Press-Republican.
That’s why the Plattsburgh woman and Alexis, an eighth-grader at Stafford Middle School, attended a recent evening event at the school aimed at educating area teens and their families about drug abuse and how to prevent it.
The event, “Stay Ahead of the Game: the Latest and Not So Greatest in Drug Trends,” was sponsored by the Drug-Free Community Support Program and the Plattsburgh Campus and Community Partnership.
TALK WITH KIDS
The Support Program was established by a federally funded grant that brings about $125,000 a year to the City of Plattsburgh for drug and alcohol prevention and education for youths age 18 and younger. The program also includes a subcommittee that focuses on parent communication.
“What we try to do is provide community-education initiatives and opportunities for parents to come in and to hear about topics that are hot topics relevant to them,” said Jessica Mathews, Support Program project coordinator and a member of the parent-communication subcommittee.
For the first portion of the evening, which was free and open to area families, parents attended a talk led by Behavioral Health Services North Director of Employee Assistance Services Bonnie Black.
Black spoke about substances such as synthetic marijuana and salvia divinorum that are being sold as seemingly harmless items, like plant food, insect repellent and incense. Despite being labeled “not for human consumption,” the substances are being ingested for the high they produce.
“Like with any illegal high, one use and you could be dead,” she told parents at the event.
In addition, Black discussed the most common reasons teens use drugs and the importance of parents talking to their kids about the dangers of substance abuse.
“If your kids learn about the risk of drugs from you, they’re 50 percent less likely to use drugs,” she said.
Meanwhile, the teens in attendance gathered in the Middle School cafeteria for a game of drug-themed bingo, during which they discussed with Mathews such topics as the negative side effects of drugs, how to recognize when a friend may be abusing substances and how to stand up to peer pressure.
For the final portion of the evening, the parents and children reunited for the High School Reality Panel, featuring a student from AuSable Valley High School and student members of Plattsburgh High School’s Team Act, an above-the-influence group organized by Mathews.
The Team Act group meets once a week at the High School and plans activities like bowling outings, trips to the movies and dodge-ball tournaments to keep teens busy and, therefore, less likely to turn to drugs.
“It really just tries to raise awareness around the school for drug and alcohol use by teens,” PHS senior James Criss, a member of Team Act who participated in the Reality Panel, told the Press-Republican.
HOW TO REACT
During the panel, Criss and the other panel participants shared insight into the best ways to decline invitations to use drugs and the consequences of being dishonest with one’s parents.
“It’s not fun when you’re grounded and your friends are all doing things,” panelist Olivia Raugi Chandler, a junior at PHS and member of Team Act, told the audience.
The students also shared what can happen at high-school parties when drugs and alcohol are present.
“People wind up getting chased by police and passed out in the woods,” Raugi Chandler said.
Plattsburgh resident Wendell Robinson-Lewis, who attended the event with stepson Brandon Fox, told the Press-Republican the program provided a lot of good information, which he hopes will help Brandon continue to avoid the temptations of drugs and alcohol.
“He’s pretty good on staying away from stuff because he’s straight-edge, which is a very good thing for him being 12 years old,” Robinson-Lewis said of Brandon, who attends seventh grade at Stafford Middle School.
“I hope that continues when he’s 14 (and) 21.”
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