Educating and Empowering Grade 10s: A Day of Substance Use Awareness

Saturday, March 04, 2023 - By: Lucy M, Mackenzie ‘23

In mid-February, Grade 10 students were given a unique opportunity to attend a day-long event organized by B-Well aimed at raising awareness about substance use, encouraging open dialogue and equipping students with the necessary tools to make informed decisions. The day is a recent addition to the curriculum and is ideally suited to Grade 10 students, as this is known to be a critical age for these conversations to take place.

The day began in the Killy Theatre, where students, organizers, and speakers gathered for an introduction and an inspiring keynote speech delivered by Guy Felicella, an international speaker and drug policy reform advocate from Vancouver, B.C. Guy shared his life story, detailing how he coped with trauma, an undiagnosed learning disability, and emotional pain, with drugs and alcohol beginning at the age of 12. This led to a substance use disorder that resulted in him living in the Downtown Eastside for 20 years. He faced homelessness, gang involvement, severe health conditions, and multiple overdoses. Today, Guy has been in recovery for 9 years and uses his platform to advocate for trauma therapy, harm reduction, and changes in drug policy.

Ella C, Hope '23, one of the B-Well reps who helped organize the event, stated, "It is safe to say that everyone was either on the edge of their seat or had tears swelling up in their eyes."

After the keynote speech, students participated in three separate sessions: Narcotics Anonymous, a student panel, and a party-safe workshop. Four Narcotics Anonymous volunteers shared their experiences with addiction, and the student panel gave the 10s the opportunity to open up about their personal experiences, or those of a loved one, and the impacts substances had on their lives. Grade 11 students volunteered their time to present a workshop and share information with Grade 10 students on socializing safely.

At the end of the sessions, each Grade 10 student spent a few minutes with their group to debrief before going about the rest of their day.

Deborah Z, Alex '23, a volunteer at the event, expressed her gratitude, stating, "I feel very lucky to be a part of such an important day, and I am grateful that the B-Well team put so much effort and work into making this day as excellent as it was."

Ms Murray, Health and B-Well Sponsor, shared: "There are a lot of things for an individual to consider when making a choice to use a substance, and it is important that they have their 'eyes wide open' and understand the potential ramifications of that decision. It is also important that students know that they can reach out for help and that developing a dependency on a substance is not a personal failing, but rather a physiological or psychological response that is challenging to overcome without support."

As well, it is important for students to know that they have access to resources and support at their fingertips, should they ever need it.

Lastly, a big thank you is owed to every single person involved in the event. Thank you to Ms Murray and the B-Well team for organizing such an impactful event and to everyone who volunteered and came to speak and present. Your contributions helped make this day a success!

Lucy M, Mackenzie ‘23

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