Article by: Joaquin P.

Photo by: Cathy T.

One of the primary goals of ISM is to ensure that students maintain healthy and active lifestyles. This is accomplished in many ways, from a Wellness course requirement in 9th grade to services such as a fitness room open after school for all high school students. There is clearly a focus on all kinds of health aspects. In fact, the Wellness course itself covers topics ranging from healthy eating to the negative effects of substance abuse. In line with this, every year ISM holds a campaign to promote drug awareness. This campaign, called “Freedom from Chemical Dependency” or FCD for short, invites various speakers, some of whom are former drug-dependent individuals themselves, to discuss chemical dependency and suggest ways through which students can avoid illicit substances.

FCD is not exclusive to ISM. “FCD is the leading international nonprofit provider of school-based substance abuse prevention services. For decades, FCD has worked worldwide to provide students and the adults who care for them with the knowledge, understanding, and skills they need to make intelligent, healthy choices about alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use,” Mr. Birchenall, the Assistant Principal and one of the coordinators of the campaign, explains. The campaign itself was originally conducted for 9th-grade students, but due to the presence and strength of the freshman Wellness course, the school administration decided that they should instead shift their focus onto 11th graders. “We felt that much of what they had to say was more relevant to our older students,” Mr. Birchenall remarked.

Mr. Birchenall gave various reasons as to why he thought the campaign was necessary. “Some teenagers feel under pressure to engage in risky behaviors,” he explained. “I think it’s helpful to bring in an external organization that can talk to the very real risks of drinking too much or experimenting with drugs.”

A student, who wished to remain anonymous, felt that due to the increasing prevalence of mass media depicting drug and alcohol use, this seminar could not have come at a better time. The student justified her thoughts by saying that “Young people are not fully rationally developed, and as such, are more likely to make ‘snap judgments,’ such as experimentation. As someone who frequently hears that ‘urban music’ openly encourages unhealthy consumption and habits, I am glad that the school is taking their mission statement seriously and encouraging a healthy lifestyle with this seminar.”

There are also alarming statistics that back up the concerns of the school administration and thus stress the need for an organization such as FCD. According to the National Institute of Health, by age 18, about 60 percent of teens in the United States have had at least one alcoholic beverage. “Those are unhealthy numbers,” the student said. She further added, “I’m so glad we are addressing this.”

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