This year, Fatima Rashid ’19 has taken initiative to promote substance abuse awareness within the immediate Deerfield community and in the local Greenfield and Franklin County area with the help of Assistant Director of the Center for Global Service and Citizenship (CSGC) Ms. Heather Wakeman and Science/Health teacher Ms. Kristin Loftus. Rashid said, “I think that the reason why substance abuse awareness is relevant is because it [affects] people of different ethnicities, religions, and socioeconomic backgrounds.”
Rashid also feels substance abuse awareness should be acknowledged and discussed at Deerfield. She stated, “I think substance abuse awareness is relevant to Deerfield because there are so many risk factors and pressures on kids here…they have their grades, families, and extracurricular activities…being able to tell kids that drugs and alcohol aren’t the only ways they can relieve themselves is really important.”
Ms. Loftus additionally emphasized the importance of Rashid’s work by highlighting the lack of current knowledge about substance abuse. She specified, “We [the Deerfield community] rely on random presentations or a speaker or a workshop. Those are hit or miss and very infrequent…my wish is that Fatima’s group brings back what they’ve learned to campus and offers alternatives to students here and in terms of the choices they make.”
Rashid began her work in substance abuse awareness at the age of 12, due to the effect it had not only in her own life but also in the lives of others close to her. Rashid explained her personal tie to the cause: after an accident with a drunk driver, she immediately felt a call to action. Shortly after, a similar experience shared with a close friend brought to light the gravity of the situation and the commonality in its effects. “I saw that there was a negative pattern surrounding these substances. This wasn’t just affecting me. It was affecting the people around me,” said Rashid.
Five years later, Rashid was involved in multiple projects to promote substance abuse awareness. In her local community in the central valley of California, Rashid attends town hall meetings with her coalition to speak to her mayor. Through the relationships she established, Rashion was able to launch a“Red Ribbon,” week-long national campaign each year, bringing the national campaign for substance abuse awareness close to home in order to reach out to children and adults. Additionally, last September, she organized a conference in her local area in California after months of planning and communication with other advocacy groups. Approximately 500 people attended the conference to learn about the causes and effects of marijuana abuse.
Rashid continued to pursue her goals at Deerfield by reaching out to the CSGC and forming the Deerfield Substance Awareness Group. Referring to her first meeting with Rashid during winter of 2016, Ms. Wakeman recalled that Rashid informed her about the work she had done in her home community and expressed her wish to educate others. Ms. Wakeman spoke of her first impression of Rashid specifically and stated, “I saw a student passionate about a topic and [aimed] to make her feel empowered that she could make a difference.”
Since this initial meeting, Rashid has worked with both Ms. Wakeman and Ms. Loftus to establish connections with members of coalitions in the Franklin County area and motivate Deerfield students to become involved in substance abuse awareness efforts by joining her group. During this process, the three collaborated to develop the requisite skills for writing an effective proposal, contacting adults in the local area outside of Deerfield, and implementing Rashid’s original plan in a doable way. Clarifying the demands of this endeavor, Rashid remarked, “The members of the CSGC help you actualize all the steps you need to take to reach a goal. You have to get into contact with other people. There’s a lot more than saying you want to do something. You need to answer how you can keep your goal going and make it sustainable.”
Currently, the Deerfield Substance Abuse Awareness Group is active with around 18 members and has already had a few introductory meetings. Elaborating on the future of this group, Rashid mentioned that students will be able to contact important individuals off campus and attend policy change hearings. Rashid specified, “Our group not only raises awareness about substance abuse, but it also teaches professionalism and how to work with adults.”
Finally, Rashid encouraged any students interested in substance abuse prevention work to contact her and initiate a conversation. Ms. Loftus added that increased knowledge about substance abuse is key in the Deerfield community. Referring to her own personal experience, Ms. Loftus stated, “We have so much to learn. Particularly at Deerfield, we are an equation that equals a risk for addiction. A lot of our students are in that equation, so we need to do a better job in supporting them.”