A PowerPoint in the Grant High School auditorium cycled through slide after slide last week of alarming statistics.
Fifty percent of students at Grant have consumed alcohol within the last year. Three of 10 Grant students consumed alcohol or used drugs by themselves. Nearly a quarter of students admitted getting into a car with a driver who was under the influence of intoxicants.
The gathering in the auditorium was sponsored by administrators and student leadership, both of whom tried to keep the topic of the assembly a secret until it started. But word had spread fast
First, Grant Principal Carol Campbell addressed the crowd with a few school updates. Then the slideshow came back up. Many of the figures were equally alarming.
According to an anonymous survey taken by students in seventh period last month:
Almost three quarters of senior girls at Grant have consumed alcohol in the last year.
Forty percent of Grant upperclassmen have used marijuana in the last 30 days alone. That’s 12 percent higher than the total school average.
Around 540 students at Grant have consumed alcohol within the last 30 days.
Forty percent of Grant upperclassmen have done drugs or consumed alcohol by themselves.
Twenty percent of Grant’s upperclassmen have been in a scary situation because of drugs or alcohol and felt like they couldn’t ask an adult for help.
Last month, several students — including a top cross country runner — were suspended for an alcohol related incident that happened off school grounds. A number of people involved attended homecoming and administrators acted swiftly. The runner asked the courts to intervene and stay his automatic 28-day suspension that forced him to miss the Portland Interscholastic League district meet. His request was denied.
That case and others — in part — prompted administrators and students to hold the assembly.
After a few skits were performed about the problems that can arise while using illegal substances, three teen former addicts spoke about their experiences.
“Honestly, I felt pretty powerful, like it was nice to share that experience with kids my own age,” said Christina Almaguer, 18, one of the girls who spoke about her experiences with addiction. “I know if I would have heard something like that when I was using, I probably would have taken something away from it.”
Almaguer has been sober for a year and three months. Yesterday, she graduated from Mariposa, a program for young women who have gone through hard times related to drugs and alcohol abuse.
Next, school social worker Kate Allen introduced a panel of experts in teen drug abuse. Students from the leadership class asked questions, and the specialists took turns answering. A couple questions in, counselor Elijah Joshua unexpectedly got out of his chair and delivered a moving speech to the student body.
“I hope I don’t fall apart. I hope I don’t mess up. I hope I can just be myself without being afraid to be myself, and then just let it flow,” he said, drawing praise from many in the crowd.
Grant dance teacher and Activities Director Jessica Murray said a number of students came to her classroom and asked for help with issues around drugs or alcohol.
“Those students came in right away to get help. And you know what, to me, that’s worth it. One kid, that’s enough,” says Murray.