Ty Swenson
A Cascade Middle School student adds his thoughts to a mural that asks: How do drugs affect us, our family, friends and community? Taken on Jan. 28, during National Drug Facts Week. PLEASE SEE THE PHOTO GALLERY BELOW FOR MORE.

National Drug Facts Week comes to Cascade and Evergreen

For the next two weeks (from Jan. 28 through Feb. 8), students at Cascade Middle School and high schoolers at the Evergreen Campus in White Center are in for a crash course on drug facts.

National Drug Facts Week is driven by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and implemented locally by prevention intervention specialists working at Cascade (Haneen Ahmad) and Evergreen (Maria McDonald).

Haneen Ahmad, the specialist working at Cascade (she works for Navos through King County funding), said the goal is to educate students not only about the affects drugs can have on an individual, but beyond as well.

On Monday, Jan. 28, Ahmad had Cascade students busy writing on long rolls of butcher paper to create a mural in the cafeteria.

The question posed: “How do drugs affect us, our family, friends and community?”

Students populated the paper with a myriad of concerns including turning into a thief, damaging your health, making your family “hate you,” and homelessness. In return, they were given humorous anti-drug abuse stickers with a cute bunny and sarcastic taglines including, “Meth. Finally a simple way to become a twitching idiot in no time,” and “Totally vomit everywhere: Just one of the things you can do with the help of alcohol.”

“Even if someone isn’t doing drugs themselves, I feel like every student in our school is affected by drug use in one way or another,” Ahmad said, adding that Cascade’s students are constantly bombarded with offers to buy drugs, on campus at times, and on the walk home regularly.

“It is around them constantly whether they are using it (or not),” she added.

For two hours each day, Cascade students will do different activities throughout the week to learn more about drugs, their history, and their dangers. Tuesday will be a drug fact quiz with free prizes on the line, and Haneen said Wednesday will be completely devoted to teaching kids more about marijuana, a hot topic in the wake of I-502’s passage (allowing recreational use for those 21 and older in Washington). A similar protocol will be in place when the activities move to Evergreen next week.

Ahmad said her kids have had a lot of questions and misconceptions about marijuana recently.

“There is definitely a lot of confusion because kids will say, ‘Oh, it’s legal now I can do it,’ or they don’t know the rules around it and think anyone can do it anywhere,” she said.

Just last week, Ahmad held a drug fact awareness meeting for parents as well. She said it is all part of improving communication:

“I feel like the education really shouldn’t be starting in middle school, it should be starting at a much younger age. Parents really, really need to get on board. A lot of parents really rely on the school system to provide their kids with that information and having those kinds of discussions with their kids. They really need to be having those conversations at home.

“The amount of impact that parents have on their children in just conversing about drugs is so huge, and we really, as a community, if we are going to change the drug presence … we need not only community members on board, but we need parents and schools and everybody on board.”

As prevention intervention specialists, Ahmad and McDonald counsel students on issues of drugs, alcohol and mental health which includes in-class presentations, one-on-one sessions, and screening for additional services children may need (and referring them to more intense services), Ahmad said.

They are also members of the Community Coalition for Drug Free Youth, a group of businesses, citizens, non-profits and government agencies aimed at reducing drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse in the Highline School District.