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Student to Student

My last article, involving the drug problem in Park City taught me way more than I ever expected to learn as an intern. I learned that when your parents leave you alone for four days this isn’t the best article to greet them with.

I also learned that when I am the bearer of unwelcome, controversial news, repercussions follow. These repercussions varied in tone; some applauded my effort to raise awareness while others questioned my motives and felt personally attacked. Most of the comments have taken place at school. The results were surprising, one day I was praised through clenched teeth by a school authority. The next day a teacher used it as a learning tool in order to get a better feel for whether or not his class felt that drugs were a problem. I found myself in tears later in the week when I felt personally attacked by a school official who felt that the article pointed too many figures and never gave a solution.

People seemed to forget that I am an 18-year-old intern. I never claimed to have a solution to a problem that has plagued parents for decades. I purely felt the need to open eyes to a commonly overlooked issue taking place right under our noses. I don’t think any one institution is to blame, and I don’t think that by writing about drug use kids won’t go out and get drunk this Saturday. I just felt the need to give the community a bird’s eye view into the life of a average high school student.

Just because they are high school students, doesn’t mean the problem is the high school.

The problem was easy to point out but impossible to classify. It’s not just a school, problem, a community problem, or an ideology issue. It’s a combination of everything and everyone. The school had the most to say about the article, since many parents automatically assume that the school is the cause and solution to the student problems.

These days the school is expected to be the psychologist, parent, watchdog, and teacher. No doubt if parents believe that there is a major issue they will call up the school and demand action be taken. The school tries. Whether people believe they are doing to much or too little, at least they are doing something.

Mrs. Beaty, Park City High School intervention counselor said she was "frustrated" by the article. Beaty’s main concern was that she felt the school does anything but turn a blind eye toward the problem. She feels the school is doing everything it can to make sure that drugs and alcohol don’t become the norm. "Park City is unique in the way that it has counselors or a drug awareness program starting in kindergarten. In middle school there is Health Class which covers the affects of drug and alcohol and in 8th grade kids also go through the D.A.R.E. program," she said. The drug awareness programs continue to high school where the kids than take 10th grade health and the school does programs such as Red Ribbon week.

In previous years the school has also had a panel of kids come to talk about their experience with drugs.

"Last year we showed a movie called THE NEW FACE OF DRUGS , and the turnout was incredible," said Beaty. Unfortunately the parents who usually come and listen to those things are the one’s who are already aware. Beaty knows the limitations of her job and as much as she sometimes would like to, "I can’t be everywhere." She feels that on top of everything the school does one thing that may cut the amount of drugs and alcohol is if the parents asked more questions.

"Don’t be afraid to ask how your kid is because you are afraid of the answer," she said. Beaty went on to express that it is as easy as making sure your child is as adjusted as they seem to be. "Ask about their friends and make sure everything is alright. Kids are most likely to start using drugs and alcohol when they are having problems with their personal life." As the intervention counselor Beaty also wishes kid’s friends would get more involved when they see that their peer has a problem. "No one wants to be a tattle-tale, but by the time they do something about it things are seriously wrong."

Someone else who thought drugs are becoming a huge problem and is out to stop it one city at a time is Debbie Moak. Her son had been a top student and a varsity player despite his dependency on drugs and alcohol as a senior. Moak has started foundations and travels the world sending the message that "not my child" is a horrible mind-set. She called to say that I had "hit it right on the head." Through her organization, Not My Kid, and project 7th grade, Moak is teaching parents exactly what to look for and what to do. "The average kids starting using drugs and alcohol in 7th grade", so she is instructing middle school and high school parents how to spot anything from pot use to lies. "Parents aren’t in tune with kids today, the parents need to set boundaries."

She and Mrs. Beaty agree that communication between parents and kids is vital. Moak also equips parents with "special tools" to really make sure kids know parents are for real. "We give parents drug tests kits to use on their kids so that kids know that their parents are serious. It also gives kids a reason to say ‘no’ to drugs in the first place."

While this may seem a betrayal of hard earned trust, Moak says "you must earn trust, set boundaries, and then verify. You wouldn’t ask your kids if they’re getting good grades and then not check their report cards."

A few teachers were offended that students thought they made light of such a serious issue. And it’s true, while many teachers do joke about it, many more constantly warn of the dangers and all teachers would quickly take action if they thought a student was having a problem with substance abuse. Some teachers take these problems more seriously than others and will occasionally lecture classes about the dangers of illegal substances.

Mr. Matich, the health teacher at Park City High School was surprisingly supportive of the article. He said that he spends about two weeks on drugs and alcohol, roughly the same amount of time he spends on the other topics.

"My job as an educator is to state facts about drugs, whose using them, why they’re using them, and what they do to you as a person." He covers all topics of drugs including pot, alcohol and the harder drugs, but says the students are often more concerned with why pot isn’t legalized than they are about the long-term effects. When asked how 10th grade health could better reach the kids, Matich had a few ideas. "There isn’t enough community service help, we need to have police officers in the class and kids who have been in drug rehab." Like the others, he stated that parents need to be more proactive.

The most surprising reactions to my drug article came from my peers. They were having their issue broadcast to the community and all I got in the halls was agreement. Not one student asked why I would write something like this, all they said was how much they agreed.


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