Apr 27, 12:00 PM EDT

De-Instilling Stigma: The Impact of K-12 Education

Part of First of All

Hosted by Sasha Simon

Modern society gives young people many things to cope with, which are often managed by and mitigated within the education system. The trauma that students bring to the classroom vis-a-vis child welfare policies, immigration policies, drug policies etc is oftentimes a reason why they use drugs to cope.

Recognizing that adolescence is a unique moment of growth and transition, it’s critical that teens have the necessary support to not only lean into the physical and cognitive changes that are occurring, but to also navigate the larger socio political forces that surround them. 

Coming out, homelessness, bullying, and/or having a struggling or absent parent are common difficulties of adolescence that teens need tools to successfully maneuver and overcome. In this episode, learn more about what schools and educators are doing to remove the stigma around teens being and becoming who they are in order to support students’ physical and mental health.

About Sasha Simon

Sasha Simon is the Safety First Program Manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, where she manages the development and evaluation of the U.S.'s first harm reduction-based drug education curriculum for 9th and 10th grade students. Simon has an extensive career working as a health educator at a variety of institutions, including Columbia University, City University of New York (CUNY), GHMC, and Health, Education & Research Occupations (HERO) High School, a 9-14 P-TECH school in the Bronx.  

An avid youth development specialist, Simon delivers youth-adult capacity building trainings to clinicians, parents, and youth-serving organizations to help increase their capacity for youth participation in organizational decision-making processes. Alongside a vast network of mentors of color, Simon volunteers her time supporting and removing financial barriers to higher learning for first-gen college students of color through the college application process.

About First of All

Most American millennials and Gen X-ers were students of abstinence-based drug education like D.A.R.E., which was, in the 80s and 90s, a pledge to a local police officer in 4th and 5th grade to never, ever do drugs. To not become one of “those people” in the commercials. 

Well, the results are in: we didn’t resist drugs, and accidental overdose is currently the leading cause of death under the age of 50 in the U.S., and stigmatizing and criminalizing approaches to drug education and drug use are largely to blame. We denied the reality and multifaceted reasons we use drugs, limiting our capacity to navigate an ever-evolving landscape of drug policy, drug development, and technological advances surrounding drug use and safety. 

While we have decades-long and failingly clung to ‘Just Say No’ prevention messaging and policies, information changes, science evolves and innovation disrupts. 

Hosted by Sasha Simon, Safety First Senior Program Manager at the Drug Policy Alliance, First of All aims to clear away all the junk science and stigma related to substance use, putting science, dignity and respect first. In this series, Simon brings key components of a harm reduction-approach to drug education to life online so viewers can discover innovative ways to learn about drugs that could save their lives or those of the people they love. 

Original Series

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