By Nicole Hennessy
“Everything people do is a response to something they feel,” Bay Village High School senior Amanda Brian said, sitting outside while her AP course schedule went on without her toward the end of the school day.
Still fresh in her mind is former federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent Robert Stutman’s appearance at the high school a few weeks ago, a day spent educating the community on national rampant prescription drug abuse.
A good student and independent thinker, Brian took in his presentations, happy the subject matter was being discussed but wishing there had been more focus on “why, especially young adults, are so susceptible to creating an addiction or a habit because that’s where the real prevention begins.”
“Why would you want to turn to something like this?” she would ask at-risk students. “Why would you want to get addicted to something?”
Several times throughout Stutman’s lectures, the former agent expressed his dissatisfaction with the D.A.R.E. program, reminding parents that most of their kids didn’t even remember the “say no to drugs” rhetoric they’d heard throughout primary and middle school.
Coincidentally, Bay had already decided to switch over to a National Institute on Drug Abuse approved program called Brain Power, which will be piloted in the middle school beginning in May, a result of the city’s budget no longer allowing for the availability of an officer to instruct D.A.R.E. courses.
Bay Middle School principal Sean McAndrews says beginning the program in the month of May is a strategic move.
“There’s a lot more unsupervised time throughout the summer,” he explained.
Unlike the D.A.R.E. program, Brain Power is said to include aspects in its lessons on drugs affect the brain and personal health, as well as warning signs to look for and team-building exercises.
“It’s the best chance of having something that is meaningful (sink in),” said Superintendent Clint Keener. “Having it also linked to the science curriculum makes it even more meaningful.”
For the rest of the year, this program will be worked into the middle school’s basic science course. Though D.A.R.E. is done within Bay, there are attributes that some administrators still find valuable.
“It might not have combated drug and alcohol use,” McAndrews said of the program. “But it did build a relationship with the police department and our kids in Bay Village. I think that’s an important piece that people are forgetting.
“Often, people do not look at policemen (or women) as someone they can talk to.”
Admitting that she, like other students, remembers D.A.R.E. as little more than a half-hour break from class, Brian says that no matter what program is used, open communication and a more connected community would be the best ways to begin combating and preventing addiction.
“As a community, as a whole, I think we’re very disconnected,” she said. “More disconnected than we think we are.”
Brian, who plans to study psychology in college next year, has seen friends go through phases with partying. But she tries to see the bigger picture, reminding herself how small high school is within it.
The bottom line, she said, and the best way to avoid negative behaviors, is that you just have to “be your own person.”
“Don’t depend on other people for your own decisions,” she said.