Monday March 11, 2013

Recently, I have been having a blast working with middle school students and our local media. We’ve been to the BCTV studio to produce an anti-bullying video and we’ve visited the WVEW radio studio to produce radio PSAs. It’s amazing what a little collaboration between community businesses, organizations and youth can accomplish. We need to do more of it. Last week I coordinated a field trip to Mondo Mediaworks for a group from Brattleboro Area Middle School. BAPC is collaborating with the PEAK program at BAMS to develop a local focused Above the Influence media campaign. Luke, Mondo Mediaworks owner, graciously hosted the students for a media brainstorming session. I had the opportunity to observe their discussion about media and the type of messaging that resonates with them. Let me tell you, it was enlightening and fun!

In my opinion, one of the benefits of working with youth is their innate ability to cut through the clutter and be honest about their thoughts. These students are no exception; they seemed to enjoy being part of a thoughtful conversation and receiving respect for their opinions. Luke got down on their level (literally, he sat on the floor) and they just talked. He asked them what kind of message would impact them and they opened up. Later Luke shared with me his thoughts on the conversation with the students; "The feedback I heard from this group is that honesty and authenticity matter. If you want to develop a message around a serious topic like substance abuse or bullying, you need real stories from kids with real experience. That’s how you connect. That’s how you spread the message." The students are continuing their research and they’ll be developing the media campaign during the month of March. Stay tuned for some really good stuff.

Since we’re talking about being honest, I can’t ignore this opportunity to plug our Blunt Truth campaign about the effects of marijuana on the developing adolescent brain. The most important part of the brain, the pre-frontal cortex, reaches full development at age 25. Marijuana use affects the development of the pre-frontal cortex, which is responsible for executive function and reasoning skills. To spread this message I’ve been handing out rainbow-colored, brain-shaped stress relievers all over town. The brains are brightly colored and squeezing them really does relieve stress. People are going nuts over the brains. It’s exciting to have a promotional item that gets so much attention. I just hope they don’t attract zombies! You can grab one for yourself at Bruegger’s Bagels, Brattleboro Chamber of Commerce office, Boys & Girls Club, Key Bank and People’s Bank (on Main St.), Brooks Memorial Library, Turn it Up and Youth Services. BAPC staff is carrying them around everywhere they go. If you see Beth, Cassandra or me on the street, don’t be shy. Ask us for a brain. If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a brain, go to TheBluntTruth.org and enter the contest to win a $5 Bruegger’s Bagels gift card or the grand prize iPod shuffle.

The politics around marijuana as a substance, medicine and fiber are complex. This campaign isn’t trying to have that debate. The Blunt Truth is simply about communicating the importance of protecting developing brains. We don’t want our youth turning into a bunch of zombies, do we? Marijuana and other substance use are not a safe choice for youth during the critical stage of brain development. So now you know. What will you do with this information? Will you pass it on? I encourage you to talk with the youth in your life about the risks of experimenting with drugs. What you do today does matter. That’s the truth.

Shannon Albritton is the communications coordinator the Brattleboro Area Prevention Coalition (BAPC), a local nonprofit that organizes community efforts involved in the ongoing prevention and reduction of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug abuse in the Windham Southeast area. The coalition meets in Brattleboro on the second Friday of each month at 12pm, from September - June and all are welcome. To learn more about their prevention efforts or how you can contribute to their efforts visit www.BrattleboroAreaPreventionCoalition.org or call 802.257.2175.