Empowering Teens to Become Agents of Change

The Oregon Partnership gave high school volunteers an opportunity to engage their peers in a survey about school alcohol and marijuana use – with a fascinating result. The students developed a scientific questionnaire with professional assistance, and then used PDAs to poll their respective student bodies. After the surveys were tabulated an extraordinary fact emerged: The actual use of alcohol and drugs was extremely lower than - practically the opposite of- perceived use.

The next challenge: Get that word out and see if it would affect conditions at the two pilot high schools. The student group developed posters and advertisements, as well as town halls, to share the news that most of their high school’s population was not regularly using alcohol or marijuana.

 Six months later the survey was repeated – with significantly different results. In one high school, not only had perceptions lowered, but actual use of alcohol and marijuana had decreased as well.  A vice-principal at one of the schools was thrilled to report drug and alcohol-related school infractions had decreased by 28%.  By empowering teens they became agents for positive social change through careful research and targeted messages, resulting in safer communities.

The Oregon Partnership is a statewide non-profit promoting healthy kids and communities through drug and alcohol awareness, drug prevention programs, and 24 hour crisis lines for treatment referrals, members of the military and their families, and suicide intervention. We work with schools, law enforcement, the military and community coalitions statewide to create public awareness on the dangers of substance abuse.

Tom Parker is Communications Director at the Oregon Partnership

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