CARE Coalition Making Strides Towards Healthier Student Body

Bella Carter, Reporter

 

Photo Credit Town of West Springfield

The CARE Coalition has a goal – to educate and prevent drug use in West Springfield students. It started in 2014, with our Director of Health Christine Beaumont seeing both high student drug usage and overdose rates. Vaping is a recent trend for students, popular now alongside marijuana use, with 3.6 million middle and high school students using e-cigarettes in 2018, and about 1 in 16 high school seniors using marijuana every day, according to the American Addiction Centers organization. CARE is especially concerned about “pressed/counterfeit pills- these are pills pressed in backyard labs that are ‘enhanced’ with Fentanyl and are leading to a frightening number of ‘accidental poisonings’”, according to WSHS’s Care representative.

The CARE Coalition representative, Ms. Ananda Lennox, is working directly in the West Springfield High School reaching out to students. She has been in this field for ten years, though she was just brought into her current position in 2021. She is a UMass graduate who studied school counseling, and a mother of three boys, who is working very hard to reach out to students after COVID restrictions easing up within the last year. 

Through her work with the CARE Coalition, the school has seen use rates drop due to more “[awareness and education]”. But there is always more to be done. There are several projects running at the moment, including assisting West Side’s SADD Chapter (which is now called PLOT Twist – Positive Leaders Of Tomorrow), and even forming another chapter in the Middle School with Ms. Florek. CARE is also partnering with Video Production 1 to create a video to ease school transition for incoming freshmen, and has plans to conduct alcohol compliance checks with local businesses.

CARE relies on invited student volunteers with high social and academic standing in the school. Volunteers are going to be working a lot with middle school students, giving vape prevention information to sixth graders and running a program for incoming freshmen who need support. The coalition is also currently looking for student volunteers to participate in focus group discussions, which will guarantee a $20 gift card for an hour of discussion. If you are interested, please contact Ms. Lennox at [email protected]