Stand Strong Coalition hosts forum on substance free living, Catalyst club created

Sarah Verschoor

Stevenson’s Stand Strong Coalition hosted a community open forum, “Not My Kid!?, on drug and alcohol free living for teens featuring a variety of guest speakers including a health care professional and a local judge. This event, the second of its kind, follows the Stand Strong Coalition’s continuing initiative to educate teens and parents on the impact of illegal substances in the community.

The coalition features a long list of community members from local police departments, the Lake County Sheriff’s Department and feeder schools as well as local religious leaders and parents.

“The idea of a coalition is to bring all sectors of the community together, not just parents and students,” Jamie Epstein, Stand Strong Coalition Coordinator, said.

Epstein leads the coalition with an emphasis on educating teens about the serious health impacts of using drugs and alcohol during their developmental years. While the decision to use these substances can often be swayed by moral or legal opinions, Epstein believes the effect of drugs or alcohol on a growing body is a deciding factor.

“The development of the teen brain is not a moral issue,” Epstein said. “Studies show the brain stops developing at age 26, so [the teenage years] are the last chance to let it develop.”

In support of promoting this idea, Epstein and the coalition started a new club at Stevenson called Catalyst. Catalyst is the student link to the Stand Strong Coalition by promoting drug and alcohol free living directly at school.

Nicole Keane ’16 is the assistant director of Catalyst. She and a select group of students were chosen by teachers and other community leaders to run the club. Eighteen students serve on the executive board and have been planning for general club events since the summer.

“We want to gain recognition from the whole student body and represent those who choose not to drink,” Keane said. “We want to promote the image that people who choose not to drink are courageous, not weird.”

According to Keane, Catalyst plans to advance their mission by organizing alternative activities to partying throughout the year, such as trips to Six Flags open for all students.

Additionally, Catalyst wants to speak to school leaders like coaches and teachers. Both Epstein and Keane agree that adults have a large influence on teen’s actions.

Epstein even said that parents are as susceptible to peer pressure as teens when it comes to following community norms about drinking or drug use.

“Parents have fallen by the wayside,” Epstein said. “They need to be empowered to make better choices, too.”

 Both Catalyst and the Stand Strong Coalition will work together this year to implement drug and alcohol policies that are non-judgmental and evidence base throughout the Stevenson community.

“Not My Kid?!” was hosted Wednesday Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center.