Community project aims to prevent student substance abuse

By Jenny Jiao, ’16

The Stand Project is a community coalition dedicated to the prevention of substance abuse. Recently, the Project launched a Speaker Series, in which experts come to share their knowledge about the importance of community and the effects of marijuana, narcotics and tobacco.

The next event will focus on tobacco. Dr. Robert Crane, an expert in tobacco addiction, will give a speech at the Upper Arlington Public Library Friends Theater Nov. 19.

The project is centered around a community approach, says founding member Marcie Seidel, who is also the executive director of the Drug Free Action Alliance.

Currently, the effort includes members from government, school administration, law enforcement, substance abuse specialists, local business, parents and students.

Jamie Burke, a leadership staff member of community mental health organization Syntero was invited to join the coalition as the project grew.

Burke expands upon what the community approach is.

“This approach is saying ‘What can we do as a community [to support students outside] the school bubble?’” Burke said.

In addition to being led by community members, Burke said this approach allows for the programs to be more comprehensible to students, as compared to other drug prevention programs, such as Keepin’ It REAL and D.A.R.E.

“A lot of those are national level programs so they’re talking pretty broad. This is specific to Upper Arlington. This is saying what’s happening locally here,” Burke said. “We’re going to tackle it strategically because the way substance abuse and addiction looks in every community is so different.”

Senior Sarah Faure got involved because she believed in the local approach. She was inspired by the first speaker in the Stand Project’s series, Sarah Nerad.

“My mom is on the committee and she told me about a speaker, Sarah Nerad, who was coming to do a presentation. I watched a video of Sarah’s Ted talk at OSU and was immediately interested in her because her ideas for preventing alcohol and drug abuse weren’t the same things we’d been hearing for years,” Faure said. “After watching her video, I went to a Stand meeting and I was excited that I could be involved in creating cultural changes that might help to prevent substance abuse and addiction in our community.”

The Stand Project’s committee members sought to analyze the trends of the problem in the community, as well as understand the different components of it by initiating conversation with parents and students.

“[We are] taking a look at data such as what our EMSes, police, and schools are dealing with to understand what we need to tackle,” Burke said. “Now, we’re going to have more intimate conversations with students to say, ‘What are you seeing? What are you hearing? What are people actually using?’”

Burke said the goal is to obtain all the information possible so that they can create a program or series of programs tailored to the students’ needs.

“We’ll start to build our program around what [students] tell us [they] need…It’s really going to be a youth-driven, youth-led project in that we’re going to listen and then respond,” Burke said.

Faure believes she contributes a vital and unique viewpoint to the community coalition.

“As one of the only teenagers working on the project, I bring a different perspective to the way teenagers will react to the things the Stand Project wants to do,” Faure said. “For now, I am acting in an advisory capacity, but I’m hoping that I can get involved in specific projects.”

Faure encourages students to participate in The Stand Project to educate the community about, and prevent substance abuse.

“Other students definitely can get involved,” Faure said. “I think that it’s really important that more students do because this is an issue that directly affects us and the people around us.”