STAND impacts Chisholm


Photo Courtesy

Stand members pose for a group picture while presenting at Chisholm middle school.

Benjamin Meier, Guest writer

“How many of you think that the majority of high schoolers are drinking alcohol?” This was the question that opened conversation between members of Mirror’s high school STAND program and 181 eighth grade students at Chisholm Middle School. Seven Newton High School STAND students took over the eighth grade Careers and Spanish classrooms on Mar. 31 to have an honest conversation about making positive choices as you get older, including saying no to alcohol.

STAND is a regional prevention program of Mirror in six different schools in the area that raises up high school leaders to stand up for positive and healthy behaviors for themselves and their peers. These young leaders impact their communities through service, mental health promotion, youth substance use education and relational partnerships with the middle schools in their town. Recently, the STAND program has received state and national attention, even warranting kudos on the former First Lady’s Twitter in October of 2020.

The Tik-Tok-themed presentation at Chisholm is part of the impactful middle school partnership and the culmination of months of work for these young leaders. Members from each team share the truth about youth drug use with those younger than them – the truth that despite the way it may feel sometimes, substance use is not the norm. Student statistics from the Kansas Communities That Care survey are shared with the younger students, showing them that the great majority of youth just like them are choosing not to drink alcohol. Several STAND leaders noticed the reactions of the younger youth who realized that they are in the majority by not drinking.

“It was interesting to see how the kids reacted to the statistics. Many of them were super surprised,” sophomore Gracie Hendrickson said. “If you feel like your friends are pressuring you to make negative decisions like drinking alcohol, you can tell them no. It’s okay to do that. There are plenty of kids making healthy decisions, so don’t let anybody tell you ‘everyone’s doing it,’ because it’s just not true.”

Seniors Alondra Valle and Kati Blaylock along with sophomore Lynn Morford present to a class at Chisholm middle school. (Photo Courtesy)

Walking them through the cons of underage alcohol use, STAND members taught the middle schoolers how to evaluate their decisions and the possible outcomes of those choices. Each student left with a creative, gen-Z wheel of refusal skills to help them in saying no to offers of drugs or alcohol. Skills like “Nah, bruh I don’t do that” and “Live ya best life – suggest something more positive” break down the difficult task of refusing alcohol from your peers and give options to make a more positive decision. 

The second half of the presentation focused on the increasingly important topic of mental health. Older students shared how they boost their own mental health through some everyday activities, encouraging younger students to find their productive outlets. 

“Outlets are something healthy that you can do that naturally make you happy, give you energy, keep you positive, and actually boost the happy-feeling chemicals in your body,” Hendrickson said.

Things like talking to positive friends, leaning on trusted family members, serving others and spirituality were all shared as mental health boosters. Middle schoolers also shared their outlets, like sports, spending time with their pets and painting.

Junior Savannah Hunsucker reads off a piece of paper while presenting with junior Hallie Watkins and sophomore Gracie Hendrickson. (Photo Courtesy)

STAND was not able to participate in coming to the middle schools last year because of the pandemic. This year, with some restrictions and extra sanitizing, they were able to carry out this initiative and model some positive, healthy leadership for youth going into high school next year. Joseph Winfield, the STAND Coordinator, enjoyed being able to host the tradition again this year.

“Overall, our entire team had a great time,” Winfield said. “It was not only fun to engage with younger students, but it was also important that we did it in a way that would be meaningful and help build a relationship with those students.” 

High school STAND teams all over the county will be delivering the presentation to their middle schoolers, engaging them in positive decision-making, and working to inspire a new generation to live healthy, productive lives.