Soundcheck creates goals and plans with students for upcoming year

Sophia Sardina

ESD is well aware that there is a substance abuse epidemic in teens in the U.S. and that it’s important to provide mental health support to them. So, starting in 2021, the school hired Soundcheck, a team composed of members who had a struggle with alcohol and drug dependency themselves.

Alcohol abuse is usually painted in the older generations as a coping mechanism to deal with work, marriage or life in general. However, more than 12 percent of all high school students meet the criteria for a diagnosis of alcohol abuse or dependence, according to The Recovery Village.

With this, Soundcheck came to 4100 Merrell Rd. in 2021 to talk to the upper school students, and they visited again this year on Sept. 20 to 22.

“Last year there was a healthy amount of skepticism from the students,” Soundcheck founder and CEO Will Straughan said. “However, we appreciated that because it gave us a chance for you guys to get to know us.”

Soundcheck allows students to connect with people who may have had similar experiences to theirs, they want to engage in  a transparent talk with students, one that provides honesty and understanding. During their second visit in September, the students’ energy seemed more prominent. Students were more involved in the conversations, contrary to last year, and there was more student input and participation.

“There seemed to be new or additional energy around the topic; students were contributing and asking questions,” Lee Bergeron, who is in charge of program development at Soundcheck, said. “And it was awesome to see.”

“Our mission is to support students and the community, as well as teaching them about substance misuse and prevention.”

Lee Bergerton

This year, Soundcheck focused on getting to know ESD students better and to  make it easier to connect and relate to those who may be struggling with addiction. In their previous meeting, they met with all four upper school grades and talked about the basics of alcohol’s effects on the brain and life.

“The September visit was more as a test run to see the openness of these types of conversations at ESD’’ Straughan said. “We got to see the values the students have and this conversation really just put in perspective of where we should start.”

Their long term plan is to go step-by-step to help students and the community in the region of substance abuse. As well as helping to learn about substances the program strives to help  students feel more comfortable with the idea and general topic of substance use.

“Our mission is to support students and the community,” Bergeron said. “As well as teaching them about substance misuse and prevention.”

 Their plans for ESD have not changed since last year, they just tend to adapt to each  student body they talk to. This way, they can get their message across by having unique programs for different schools and different groups.

“One thing that stood out and is important to me was teaching the students about self advocacy and identifying certain aspects,” Ian Groves, a prevention specialist at Soundcheck, said. “It’s important for students to identify who they are and what their goals are.”

To Soundcheck it is really important for students to know who they are and to surround themselves with goals they have.

 “Usually, if they have their goals planned that they want to reach, it inspires them to stay on track,” Groves said.

Since they expressed their mission to the upper school student body, some have expressed their opinion about the program. Students tend to lean towards the idea of this new program with their unique  teaching format, while others are not engaged or don’t have an interest in Soundcheck.

“I think Soundcheck is really beneficial,” sophomore Nina Rastin said. “It helps students understand the harmful effects of substances while [their programming is] entertaining”.

Rastin thinks having Soundcheck come to ESD is productive because the students get personal stories from people who have lived with substance abuse.

“They had substances change the course of their lives and by this they shed light to help try to avoid that in future generations,” Rastin said.

Though some may agree with Rastin, others may not. Sophomore Parmida Zandinejad disagrees with the efficiency of Soundcheck.

“I thought it was a good presentation all in all,” Zandinejad said. “However, I don’t think having a more entertaining presentation makes kids learn and pay more attention”.

Zanbdinejad noticed that students weren’t paying attention by being on their phones or talking to their friends. She said some students did not take it seriously.

“As expected, students were messing around,” she said. “Even though it wasn’t boring, students don’t want to talk about alcohol and its effects for an hour,” Zandinejad said.

Zandinejad also said that the problem of teen drinking has been, and will always be, an issue with teenagers.

 “And honestly, I don’t think one program can fix that in total,” Zandinejad said.

While Bergeron believes that alcohol and drug talks are never easy, having a team like Soundcheck prioritize the students well being, relating and having a public bond with them, is a probable solution to help get the message across and have a good time doing it. “Having trust and relation to the school makes the energy surrounding this topic lighter and better,” Bergeron said. “Our relationship with students is imperative and we value that everywhere we go.”

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