NORWALK, Conn. – A special group of teens from Brien McMahon High School is making an impact on the Norwalk community by creating awareness for teen substance abuse prevention, as well as learning how to advocate for the cause.
They’re called HEART, or Health Education Awareness Raised by Teens, and are a part of the Norwalk-based Human Services Council . HEART creates and fosters programs that educate, safeguard and empower people in our communities.
The program works like this: A Brien McMahon student interested in the HEART program voluntarily signs up for weekly meetings. The HEART teens are first taught about a wide range of topics that are increasingly plaguing youth today, including tobacco, e-cigarettes, hookah pens, marijuana and other drugs as well as issues related to mental health.
Once the teens have a firm understanding, they prepare a presentation and skit based on facts as well as risk factors. Next, they are encouraged to contact a local elementary or middle school on their own in order to schedule a presentation. Once they set a date, the HEART group prepares for, then actually performs their skit for that school’s students and teachers.
What makes HEART unique and rewarding is that its teen members are involved in every aspect of this experience, from being educated about these serious topics to taking responsibility for each step taken to creatively plan and execute the presentations.
The HEART group has been so successful that is now advocating for teen substance abuse prevention and mental health issues on a governmental level.
To bring this idea to fruition, HEART recently embarked on a field trip to the State Capital, complete with meeting state Sen. Bob Duff and local state representatives as well as Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman.
The day’s educational agenda included a tour of the Legislative Office Building and the State Capitol Building, as well as learning first-hand about the legislative process and the importance of advocacy.
HEART is affiliated with the Dr. Robert E. Appleby School Based Health Centers (run by Rhonda Capuano, Director) and The Mid-Fairfield Substance Abuse Coalition (run by Carlos Reinoso Jr., Director), both of which are programs created by the Human Services Council (HSC).
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