The CLOSE Program is partnering up with Longmeadow High School’s STAND club to help spread awareness to teens about substance use. This year, they are focusing on getting the word out that most drug-related trends are false, “The goal is to shift all of the student’s perceptions around normal behavior. We know most students are making healthy choices but they don’t know that,” said Mr. Paul McNeil, the CLOSE Program Coordinator.
Mr. McNeil has been working with Ms. Shelly Warren, the district’s Substance Use Response Coordinator and the advisor of STAND Club, and Longmeadow High School club members to reduce the users of illegal drugs for five years.
They have been doing this by creating programs that further explain the effects of drug use, putting posters all over the school to let students know that not everyone is doing drugs. “They think that everyone’s drinking, they think everyone’s smoking weed, they think everyone’s making unhealthy choices,” said Mr. McNeil revealing the Social Norms Campaign 2022 at LHS.
The CLOSE Program and STAND club conduct surveys every spring and based on the stats, they either create more educational programs or teach students more on the effects of substances. “Last year, only 9% of students vaped and only 13% of students used cannabis,” said Mr. McNeil. “They think everyone’s making unhealthy choices and that it’s normal. And that’s not normal, that’s a minority of students.”
Their first major project this year “is a picture collage right outside of the cafeteria displaying what members of the LHS community “Stand For” displaying what we advocate for, interests, etc,” said Riya Sandler, a senior leader in the STAND Club. She also shares a project they have been working on with 8th-grade students, “We are now working on PSA displays for fentanyl and visiting 8th-grade classrooms to express substance safety,” said Sandler. Tarun Nandakumar, a club member, shares how they do them, “By hanging up posters advocating the dangers of fentanyl and putting them on the school TVs STAND hopes to prevent kids from using fentanyl and other dangerous substances.”
One of their major past projects last year was an appearance touch panel they organized to raise awareness on Narcan, “We’d have parents talk to other parents about how to keep their kids making safe and healthy decisions,” said Ms. Shelly Warren, advisor of STAND club, “we do a lot of different things.”
“I highly recommend joining STAND! We do many fun activities and work with so many people/groups in the LHS and the Longmeadow community, ” said Sandler. “On a personal level, it is fulfilling knowing that you are making a change,” shared Nandakumar.