Correction: The grant was funded by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.
A group of about 40 students gathered at Salem High School on Friday, Nov. 2, to talk about the negative effects of bullying and underage alcohol consumption and ways they can make some lasting changes at the school.
Committed is an organization based in Chico, Ca., that focuses on exactly those issues. The chapter of the club at Salem High School is the first–and at this point, only–chapter outside of California. Committed training leaders Amanda Montgomery and Jeremy Wilson flew to Salem to join forces with club sponsors Laura O’Dell, Kevin Garst and Michael Gibson.
Students were selected for the training based on some teacher recommendations, but most of the students were suggested by their peers, according to Lynn McDowell, Service Director of Prevention Services at Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare. The training opportunity was made possible through a one-time grant from the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, McDowell said.
According to a survey of 203 Salem High School students conducted by Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare during Red Ribbon Week (which was Oct. 21-28 this year):
- 20 percent of SHS students have been bullied in the last six months
- The bullying has occurred online and via texting, in class and in the hallways
- Three percent of students have missed school because they’re afraid of being bullied
Committed focuses on bulling on and off campus, and provides opportunities for students to interact with different groups than they normally might, according to Montgomery. Committed also looks at “what’s happening in the community that might contribute to underage drinking,” she said.
Montgomery and Wilson shared a short documentary filmed in Chico, Ca., called “Wasted: The Truth of Underage Drinking in Butte County.” In it, high school students spoke candidly about the underage drinking problem in their community–one that boasts close proximity to a college. Gibson, in a later conversation, drew parallels between the communities in Butte County and Salem, noting how close Roanoke College is to Salem High School.
The film showed the high school students taking an active role in making some changes in their community, including helping a local convenience store remove its alcohol advertising from the store windows.
The officers of the Salem chapter of Committed feel hopeful that they can make changes too.
“It’s exciting to have the support,” said sophomore and Committed officer Amy Spence, “and know we’re making a difference in our community.”