Almost everyone’s life path can be broken down to whether they choose to take shortcuts or whether they make the effort to develop skill sets, according to one expert.
Jake White spoke to a group of county high school students Thursday as part of the Youth Summit held at the Montpelier Superior School and hosted by the ECHO (Educating Communities on Healthy Opportunities) Coalition.
“I believe there are two choices in life,” White said. “The first choice is you can go through it with shortcuts, that’s the quick, easy way out.
“Or, you can develop a skill set, things that continue to serve you for the rest of your life and make you a better person,” he added. “And you don’t need to rely on anything to get ahead.”
White said the choices he made when he was younger to not take drugs or alcohol eventually led him to start his own business helping groups of people host parties without those substances.
He told the youth that when he was in high school he tried to be in every club or sport he could in order to stay busy.
“In high school, I was just like I am now, outgoing, energetic, I love meeting new people,” White said.
He told them that when he got to college, he decided he wasn’t going to drink or take drugs, but that he often felt like he was the only one choosing that path.
“And in my head, I’m thinking, ‘Wait, is there something wrong with me? Or is there something wrong with our culture?’ Because I feel like it’s all on me because it seems like everybody else is doing something and I’m not,” White said.
He said he still went to parties and clubs like other students, but instead of drinking first, he would exercise or play the drums, which he had learned to do years before.
White told the students doing those activities release dopamine into the brain the same way alcohol or drugs do, but exercise doesn’t have the sudden crash effect those substances cause.
Eventually, he did meet other people who had made the same choices as he did. They ran an experiment to host a drug- and alcohol-free party to see if anyone would attend. He said their first one drew quite a crowd, but ended early when they ran out of Kool-Aid.
But they learned from that lesson and threw more and bigger parties. After awhile, his parties began to draw corporate sponsors, and he now runs a business helping others throw similar parties. The speaking engagements allow him to travel the country and spread the message.
White also talked about the importance of teenagers avoiding drugs and alcohol because of the effects it can have on them.
“Plenty of studies after decades of research have shown that students who start using before the age of 15 are five times more likely to develop an addiction,” White said. “On top of that, we’ve also seen that nine out of 10, 90%, of people who are currently struggling with addiction started before they were 15.”
He also said teens who try THC are three times more likely to try to commit suicide.
He pointed out that those people who become addicted to drugs or alcohol are not necessarily bad people, and for some the reasons for turning to those substances may seem legitimate.
“The main thing is, the people that choose to use are not bad people,” White said. “They’ve just chosen to take a shortcut.”
He added, however, that when the drugs or alcohol wears off, the problems they are trying to avoid are still there.
“I just want to say what I learned from those years of school is that you don’t need to use drugs and alcohol to get confidence out of your life, even in the short term,” White said.
He encouraged the youth to get involved in prevention groups and gave ideas for hosting drug- and alcohol-free parties.
The youth summits by ECHO are planned to increase youth awareness of the harmful effects of substance use, connect youth with community resources and increase youth voices to create change.
White has created Vive18 which is a drug prevention platform to help teens make smart and safe decisions concerning drug use.
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