Could you capture the realities of addiction on paper? Could you sketch an image that accurately portrays the pain, the dangers and the effects of substance abuse? Could you create a picture that sends the message “You don’t want this.”
That’s exactly what art students at Mountain Home High School were asked to do. Their project was just one piece of the school’s district-wide Red Ribbon Week efforts. This week-long program is designed to raise drug abuse awareness among students and the community.
The art project had several goals. The first was to teach students about the negative effects of drug use. In order to complete their assignment, they had to research some pretty harrowing drug facts. The hope was, once they discovered the effects, this research would deter them from future drug use.
The second objective was to provide artwork for a local grocery store. The retailer wanted to help spread the message to keep their community members healthy and drug-free. An independent advertising agency representing the store will review art work submissions for use on their grocery bags, where they want to place “facts, images and mottos to promote a drug-free lifestyle.”
Lastly, student artwork may be used in The Bomber Bulletin (a school district publication) or entered into an art competition occurring next May. And, yes, the students did receive grades for their art projects. Criteria included originality and quality of work.
For some of the students, this project hit close to home. Sixteen-year-old Halana Way lost both her father and uncle - on the same day - to heroin overdose. She has also personally been offered drugs...and her response has always been “NO.” She knows the pain drugs cause. Halana's picture included a key, which she inscribed with the message “Drug-Free is the Key.”
Another art student, Ashley Garrison, reported that the project “made her think differently.” Rather than her typical focus on how art makes her feel, she had to shift her focus to the impact it would have on others.
Other activities scheduled for Red Ribbon Week included a kindergarten poster contest and a canned food drive. The school wanted to involve children of all ages.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Key risk periods for drug abuse are during major transitions in children’s lives. The first big transition for children is when they leave the security of the family and enter school.” NIDA also reports that children “are likely to encounter drugs for the first time during adolescence.”
With these facts in mind, the school district hopes their efforts make an impact on at-risk students - and that this impact spreads to the rest of the community.
Image Source: iStock