Students go international with anti-drug message Teens to plan conference agenda

January 02, 1993|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

Jackie Washington has no trouble expressing her feelings.

And when she's talking about drugs, her feelings are strong and firmly against their use.

That's probably why the Garrison Forest junior is among 16 teens selected to set the agenda for an international conference on preventing drug abuse, to be held in Washington, D.C., next month.

"Last year a few people that I knew began [to use drugs], and I didn't know what to do," says Miss Washington. "I finally went up to them and told them I cared. At first they were hostile; they thought I was invading their privacy."

Over time, her friends realized she wasn't meddling but really cared about them. Though they gradually stopped using drugs, her interest in prevention remained.

The Mount Washington resident later attended an anti-drug workshop, where she met John Wesley of the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information. He asked her to help plan the youth program for "New Dimensions in Prevention: Sharing Today, Shaping Tomorrow," sponsored by the national Office for Substance Abuse Prevention.

"As I traveled around the country, I had been looking for young people . . . to help us define the language and the issues of preventions," says Mr. Wesley, a marketing specialist for the clearinghouse.

Miss Washington said the conference is the first one "where youth has actually planned for youth." Workshops will be conducted by adults, but the young people involved in the planning group will moderate some of the sessions. They also will be responsible for spreading what they learn at the meeting.

Another Baltimore youth is also among the planners but, as a resident of the Woodbourne Center, which treats young people who have severe emotional problems, he was not allowed to be interviewed for this story.

"We're from different regions, different backgrounds," says Miss Washington, 16. "Some of us never attempted messing with drugs. Others have had problems. We're all so different."

When the group came together for two days this fall, "most of us agreed on basically everything . . . because it's such a universal problem," she says.

Miss Washington's suggestions for conference sessions include one on peer pressure and another on self-esteem, areas she says affect whether a person gets involved with drugs. Lessons learned in a ninth-grade in decision-making often help her handle peer pressure, she explains.

Although a number of Garrison Forest students will attend the conference, Miss Washington plans do classroom presentations for those who can not attend.

And what will this conference accomplish?

"I think it's going to help," she says.

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