Events Promoting Substance
Abuse Prevention in Cranston, RI
The Dirty Truth: Nicotine Pouches
Nicotine Pouches are the newest form of nicotine to come onto the market. They are Tobacco-Less and can vary in the amount of nicotine in them. They come in many flavors (which is known to attract youth). It is important to also note that Altria (one of the biggest tobacco companies that also operates JUUL one of the biggest vaping companies) has stock in these new products on! brand to be specific.
Currently Rhode Island has an emergency order for a flavor ban on all flavored tobacco products ( vapes in particular) but because these products DO NOT contain Tobacco they are currently exempt from that ban. However it is to be understood that you should still have to be 21 to purchase these products.
Chris Herren is a former Celtics player
Chris Herren is coming to Cranston for a Community Event!
Former Celtics player Chris Herren is coming to Cranston, RI!
The Cranston, RI Police Department and the Cranston Substance Abuse Task Force are welcoming former Celtics player Chris Herren to a community event on January 8th at Cranston East High School. All are welcome and encouraged to come to this exciting opportunity for the community to come together.
Chris Herren inspires people to start the conversation on wellness and educate themselves on the disease of addiction. It is his hope that strength will be found in the struggle and communities will come TOGETHER to address the issue of substance use disorder, advocate for effective treatment and embrace the power of recovery.
The State Opioid Response Grant through RI Dept. of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities & Hospitals and SPC Regional Prevention Coalition was given to the Cranston Police Department who is partnering with the Cranston Substance Abuse Task force a program of CCAP. Together they are working on educating and supporting the City of Cranston during this opioid crisis.
The Cranston Substance Abuse Task Force is a program of Comprehensive Community Action, Inc. (CCAP). The mission of the Cranston Substance Abuse Task Force is to promote healthy attitudes and behaviors for youth and families through community action with the focus on substance use and misuse reduction and prevention.
FULL HOUSE: Students and other members of the community filled Cranston High School East’s auditorium for Chris Herren’s presentation last week
'Chasing death' and walking away
You could have heard a pin drop in the packed auditorium at Cranston High School East last Wednesday night.
Chris Herren, a Fall River native who once played professional basketball for the NBA's Boston Celtics, visited the school to share his emotional story of substance abuse and recovery – one which started with underage drinking at age 13 and transitioned to cocaine and opioid abuse, multiple overdoses, arrests, and attempts at recovery until his official sobriety date of August 1, 2008.
Herren, now 44, has spent the last decade dedicating his life to his family and sharing his story with others in the hopes of making a difference for those who are struggling with their own addiction or that of a family member.
"Prevention Starts With All: The Chris Herren Story" was sponsored by the Cranston Police Department, the Cranston Substance Abuse Task Force – a program of CCAP – and the state's Department of Behavioral Healthcare Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, through the State Opioid Response Grant.
Cranston Police Capt. Vin McAteer introduced the event and thanked the sponsors of the event. He spoke about the impact that the current opioid addiction crisis has had on the city, state and entire country.
"Addiction does not discriminate. It doesn't care where you're from or who you are," he said.
He added: "The tide is turning as these organizations and the people inside of them are doing the work, answering the call since 2011."
Mayor Allan Fung, who introduced Herren, called addiction a "powerful disease" that has "stolen" the dreams and lives of people from the Cranston community and beyond.
He noted that hearing from Herren – whose story was featured in the acclaimed 2011 ESPN documentary "Unguarded" – provided a unique opportunity.
"I am a contemporary of Chris Herren. I grew up following his career," the mayor said. "I drove to see him play."
Herren, who played a short video before beginning his talk, started with an overview of his work during the last decade.
"For the past 10 years I have dedicated most of my life to traveling all over, telling my story to teams like the Patriots, the Packers, the Bears, the Red Sox, at Yale, in prisons, at college commencements and to more than two million children in auditoriums like this one," he said. "When it comes to addiction and the stigma attached to it, it's presented to our children all wrong. People focus on their worst day and they're forgetting their first day."
Herren spoke of his early years in a home where his father, a local politician, struggled with severe alcoholism.
"I remember the fights, the yelling, the screaming, my mom crying all the time, and I remember the first time my mom said she was going to leave him. I said, 'If you leave him, please take me with you,'" he said.
Herren said the first "red flag" in terms of his own addiction came at age 13, when he began drinking his father's cans of Miller Lite in their home's basement.
When he was 18, as his parents divorced, Herren – a high school hoops standout – was named to the McDonald's All-American team. A coveted prospect, he chose to attend Boston College.
Then, within the first few weeks on campus, he had another fateful experience on his road to addiction – this time involving other students and a new, more dangerous substance.
"At 18 years old, I had never seen cocaine, and I started walking away. But all of my childhood insecurities took hold of me as the girl in my room told me to come back, told me to try it and told me that a little cocaine wouldn't hurt me, that she was afraid the first time she tried it too," he said. "I said to myself that I'd try it one time and never again. I had no idea that the one line would take me 14 years to walk away from."
The escalation was quick. Just four months later, Boston College expelled Herren after four failed drug tests.
"At 18 years old, I was a loser, a failure," he said. "My mother was crying and for six months I sat on my mother's couch, hoping a coach would call me to give me a second chance. At 19 years old, as I sat on my mother's couch, I had no idea that one line of cocaine travels with you, no idea that it follows you."
A coach well known for giving players a second chance, Jerry Tarkanian, did in fact call Herren and asked him to play for Fresno State in California. The opportunity, however, came with conditions – that Herren publicly acknowledge his addiction and check into a rehabilitation facility in Utah.
"At 21, I sat at a table and cried o
n ESPN and went for my first treatment center check-in. I looked around me and said, 'I'm not like these people, I don't belong with those people,' but I had to do the 30 days," he said. "I returned to Fresno and played the season, and I was the 33rd draft pick for the NBA and I was drafted by the Denver Nuggets."
As Herren transitioned to a new team, he was given ground rules – no drinking, no smoking. The situation was supportive, and Herren reflected on that season as his best.
When it ended, a 22-year-old Herren was at home in Fall River with his wife and kids. Then, one night, a knock on the door marked the start of another life-changing evening.
"I opened the door and there was a kid standing there that I'd grown up with. He said, 'Remember growing up when we used to get our hands on Vicodin and Percocets? This new drug is like five Vicodin and Percocets in one shot, and I'll give it to you for $20.'"
He added: "And with that one little yellow pill, OxyContin, in 1999, I had no idea that decision would change my life forever. That $20 would turn into $25,000 a month, and two months later when I was checking into training camp, I was sick. I was dependent. My first five days of training camp was my first detox."
Before the start of his second NBA season, Herren had been traded to the Celtics – a team for which he had dreamed of playing. But when coach Rick Pitino called him, what should have been a dream come true was in fact the beginning of a nightmare.
"It had been my dream to play for the Celtics and I'd been traded to the Celtics," he said. "My first phone call was to the kid with the pills. I couldn't care less about the Celtics. I struggled all season and I was released at the end. I was buying before home games and shipping pills all over when we traveled."
Then the top team in Europe called Herren to play for them, offering him twice the money he had been making. The team also provided him with a house, schooling for his children and proximity to a hospital as the family prepared to welcome another baby.
Herren's wife didn't know that when they went through customs in Italy, he had $24,000 work of painkillers in his luggage. Eventually, that supply ran out and he became desperate once again.
"At 24 years old, I couldn't say OxyContin in Italian, and I pulled into downtown Bologna, Italy, pulled up to the guy on the street, rolled up my sleeve out the window and pointed to my veins," Herren remembered. "He jumped into my car and I drove down the alley. He said to me, 'Are you sure you don't want cocaine?' I said, 'I'm so sick from these painkillers I've been taking, I just need heroin to get me through until I can get some shipped to me.' At 24 years old I'd never seen a needle except in a hospital, and at 24 years old I became an intravenous drug user."
Four weeks later, there was a knock on his door. It was Herren's coach, letting him know that the team was heading to the mountains for 10 days of training.
"The $750,000 in cash wasn't enough. The house, the cars, the school, the hospital were not enough, because I knew there was not enough heroin to get me through in the mountains," he said. "I walked away. For four months I had no job, and every day I'd go to the same Dunkin' Donuts and see the same drug dealer, throw him some cash, put the seat back, and wait for the heroin to kick in. I'd go through the drive-thru, get Munchkins for my kids and walk into my house like a hero."
One day however, Herren, didn't put his seat back and didn't bring home Munchkins. Instead, he overdosed, took his foot off the brake and drove right into the woman in front of him.
He was arrested. But once he was bailed out of jail, he called the man from the parking lot.
"How sad we are, how sick we are, that we wake up every single day facing dying, chasing death, every single day," he said.
The calls for contracts stopped coming, and at 27 years old, Herren found himself hustling for drugs on the streets. He couldn't afford heroin, so he went for vodka.
"It shuts the noise off, helps you forget," he said.
On June 4, 2008, Herren put his children on the bus, went to the liquor store and bought four bags of heroin. He felt the overdose coming, and rather than being back home in time to get his kids off the bus that afternoon, he crashed into the cemetery across the street.
He was cuffed and walked into the same hospital he'd been in at 18 years old. He was 32 years old, and when he was released from the hospital that evening, the young police officer released him, saying that he knew who Herren was and used to follow his career.
"It kills me to see you in this condition, I can't imagine what it does to your family," Herren remembered the officer saying. "So go home and give your kids a kiss."
Instead, Herren said he decided to end his life.
"If there was one thing I could do for my family, it was to kill myself," he said.
Before Herren could leave, however, a nurse was yelling his name and asking him to wait. She was in her 50s. His mom had been in her 50s when she died of cancer. They'd known each other in high school.
"Your mom is talking to me now, asking me to fill in and get you the help you need," she said.
Herren said while the medical professionals he'd just seen were willing to release him the same night he'd overdosed, telling him that there were more deserving people waiting for the room than he was, this woman hugged him while he cried like a baby.
"I waited day after day while she called center after center and there were no beds," he said. "On the eighth day I was about to be released and a phone call came in. On the other line were a man and a woman, Chris and Liz Mullen, and they'd found me a place for six months. 'It's not the nicest place but hopefully it's enough,' they told me."
He added: "So at 32 years old I walked in, and for the first 30 days I had no contact with my family. I scrubbed floors, I cleaned toilets to earn a two-minute phone call. I called my wife, Heather, and she told me she was going to the hospital to have our third child. She'd been eight months pregnant when I had overdosed. 'No one is here with me, I have no friends, no family, can you come?'"
Against the advice of the center, Herren went.
"I witnessed my first sober birth of my son Drew. Christopher was 9 and Samantha was 7. Christopher cried when he saw me. 'I miss you, it's good to see you. I love you, I want you to be my dad. Promise me you'll be my dad,'" Herren recalled.
He added: "I told my wife I was taking a walk, and I'd be right back. But I never came back. I went up the street from Women & Infants Hospital and bought a pint of vodka. It took one sip to forget and I finished the bottle. I was still chasing death for a feeling. The next day [Heather] told me I wasn't welcome anymore. That she was stepping up for our children. So at 32 years old, I had nothing left to live for. I took the elevator down, thinking about dying. I jumped into the car and went back to the center."
The counselor at the center had heard all about Herren's return visit home. The counselor, he said, suggested that he cut ties with his family – that he ask his wife to tell their children that he had died in a car accident.
"I went back to my room, a 12-man room, and started crying," he said. "I dropped to my knees and I started praying. That was Aug. 1, 2008, and that is my sobriety date. By the grace of God, I take things one day at a time with a whole lot of guidance and support in my life. I thank God every day for that man's words, and for the bad days, and I've become grateful for the blessings, grateful for the worst moments. I forgive and I allow myself to be forgiven."
Herren's children are now 20, 18 and almost 12. His own father is still struggling with alcohol addiction.
"Every high school I walk into, somebody will say to me, 'Considering what you've been through, what was it like to have your kids come home drunk or try drugs?' And I am lucky to say that it's still an 'if' situation," he said. "It's not a lifestyle they've chosen, but if they do, I'm going to walk into their bedroom and hug them and remind them how much I love them and ask them, 'Can you please just tell me why, why would you take a chance and let it begin for you, considering what it's done to your family?'"
He added: "Presenting at home tonight was hard. I cried like a baby. I see a lot of familiar faces in the audience. I do this 200 times a year and I've been doing it for 10 years, and it never gets easier, but I believe in it. I believe in the hope that recovery can bring in, not just one person's life but to their families. I empathize with people who have families who are sick and suffering. Understand that it's not your fault. I hope that one person on the way out will say, 'I just want to feel better. I don't want to do this to myself anymore. I don't want my kids to suffer. I want them to have the dad they deserve, the mom that they believe I am.'"
He encouraged families to be present and to be aware of red flags, such as his underage drinking at 13.
"So many parents are there Monday through Friday, pouring over homework, making fools of themselves at sports games, but on the weekends, they're not always present, they step away. Be there because [children] need you before they go down into that basement," he said. "Then, there are parents who have done everything right, who are there, who are having all the conversations. You can't predict who will suffer, who will suffer from drug and alcohol addiction."
Herren also encouraged school departments to take a look at their course offerings and consider mandatory wellness and mental health classes for students. He cited the overwhelming caseloads often faced by guidance counselors.
"We have 2,400 kids in some high schools with four guidance counselors. We have more coaches, more gym teachers, more music teachers than we have guidance counselors," he said. "How can one person make an impact on 600 students?"
Dana DeVerna of the Cranston Substance Abuse Task Force later weighed in on the event.
"The Task Force was so pleased with the overwhelming turnout to such a poignant, inspirational talk by Chris Herren," DeVerna said. "I loved looking through the audience and seeing people young to old, seeing middle school students to grandparents, all talking his story but able to personalize it to them, to give them the strength to say no, to help stay sober or to help loved ones suffering. We are so blessed to have the best community partners … This event was a huge success."
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CCAP Awarded $625,000 to Combat Youth Substance Abuse
Grant from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
CRANSTON, R.I., November 30, 2018
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration recently announced that Comprehensive Community Action Program (CCAP) was awarded a grant totaling $625,000 to establish a Drug-Free Communities Support Program (DFC) in the City of Cranston. CCAP's Cranston Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force will receive $125,000 each year for the next five years for a total of $625,000.
The award, which is administered through the federal agency's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration's Center for Substance Abuse Protection (CSAP) and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) under the Executive Office of the President, will enable CCAP to identify and implement appropriate evidence-based programs, policies and procedures that are proven to decrease youth substance abuse. The Cranston Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force (CSAPTF) will administer and manager the grant. Members of the Task Force include representatives of the City, the Cranston School District, the Cranston Police Department and other key Cranston community service providers, concerned citizens and local leaders.
Since the DFC was established nationally in 1997, over 2000 prevention coalitions across the United States have been formed. The philosophy behind the program is that local drug problems require local solutions. Analysis of established coalitions shows that youth substance abuse is significantly lower where DFC funds have been invested.
Comprehensive Community Action Program (CCAP) is a private, nonprofit community action agency formed under the 1964 Economic Opportunity Act and is one of the largest organizations in Rhode Island that is dedicated solely to fighting the war on poverty. As the
"Community's Helping Hand", CCAP's array of programs and services assist individuals and families when times are tough and provides them the assistance during difficult times as they work towards personal and economic self-sufficiency. CCAP began helping the people of Cranston in 1965 and has since expanded to provide numerous programs and services throughout the State of Rhode Island. The agency employs over 350 with an operating budget of over $33 million dollars. Last year CCAP touched the lives of over 40,000 Rhode Islanders. For more information about CCAP go to www.ComCap.org
Cranston Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force Contact:
Dana DeVerna, Coordinator
CCAP Cranston Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force
West hosts first-ever Parent Summit
On March 5, Cranston High School West hosted its first-ever Parent Summit, a one-hour event that allowed parents to visit a variety of stations throughout an evening focused on a mix of topics relevant to their students' education.
The event began with a check-in process. Parents were given a colored card that told them which group they were in and the order in which they would visit the available stations.
The station rotations for the evening included a Blended Learning presentation in the iLab housed in the library, a "Hidden in Plain Sight" presentation held in the cafeteria, a presentation from Principal Tom Barbieri about the recent School Accountability report cards and a presentation from Assistant Principal Dave Schiappa about the new PBIS program, also held in the library. Each presentation was scheduled to last just 20 minutes and included an opportunity for questions and answers.
In the iLab, math educator Julie Bannon and English Language Arts educator Kate Ray spoke about their experiences as teachers in the Highlander Institute's Blended Learning program. Bannon has been involved with the program for two years and Ray for one. Each of them has had the benefit of professional development, coaching and co-teaching as they work to incorporate the more personalized approach to teaching and learning into their classrooms. The entire district is involved in the program, which has allowed more and more teachers to engage their students in Blended and Personalized Learning in their classrooms each year.
By housing the session in the iLab, parents could not only get a better understanding of what Blended Learning is and what it is not, but could also see an example of what a flexible Blended Learning classroom looks like compared to a more traditional classroom set up with rows of seating.
The iLab is set up with a variety of learning areas, including areas for whole class, small group and individual learning opportunities, allowing teachers to better meet the needs of all students. The two teachers co-taught the initial part of the session together, addressing the whole group of parents, and then split off into smaller groups as they went over some examples of techniques used in their respective classrooms. There was also an opportunity for individual questions.
This session modeled the teaching style while informing parents about the specifics of how it is utilized in classrooms. Blended Learning utilizes technology in a variety of ways, and both teachers went over some of the technology pieces they incorporate into their classrooms, including Google Classroom, IXL, Khan Academy, Edpuzzle, Noredink.com and Common Lit.
In the cafeteria, Dana DeVerna and Katelyn Bianco were on hand from the Cranston Substance Abuse Task Force as parents worked their way through a mock setting of a typical teenager's bedroom.
Throughout the space, small, round, numbered stickers were placed on various items in the room. Corresponding informational cards were handed out to parents, and as they encountered a sticker, they could look on the card to see what type of hiding place this would be for a student using illegal substances.
There were 50 hiding places or clues that signified illegal substance abuse could be taking place. Clues included possession of eye drops that could be used to alleviate red eyes from drug use. Examples of hiding places included illegal substances hidden inside of a stuffed animal, inside of a highlighter marker, under the soles of shoes, inside of a lipstick container or behind a light switch cover.
There was an opportunity for parents to speak one-on-one with DeVerna and Bianco if they had questions about anything they saw in the room that they were unfamiliar with or concerned about. Parents were also provided with resources to take home with them.
At the third station, Barbieri used a portion of the time to address the parents in attendance. He shared with them the four-star rating that Cranston West was able to achieve on the new state accountability system. He explained how the rankings were achieved and noted that Cranston West, being the third-largest high school in Rhode Island, was the only high school of its size to receive a four-star rating. He shared with parents that the student absenteeism category ranking was where the school received one out of three points, keeping them from receiving a fifth star on the rating scale. The three categories assessed were student suspension rates, teacher absenteeism rates and student absenteeism rates.
Barbieri listed all of the types of absences that counted as "excused" and noted that at West and in Cranston, some types are excused, such as a college visit, that are not considered excused by the state. However, he explained that the rate of student absenteeism is a serious problem.
"I need your help," he said. "I understand the prices of airfare tickets, and I get that it's cheaper to go away before or after a designated school vacation week, but one point out of three is significant. If we were only dealing with excused absences, we'd have gotten two points out of three. These extended vacations and other unexcused absences have a serious impact on our school's ratings."
Barbieri noted that as a parent of two high school students at West, he understands that students often want to stay home at certain times for certain reasons.
"They know just the right thing to say," he said. "But my wife, who also works here, and I, we had to make a decision and our decision is that if they are not running a fever or throwing up, they're going to school. I'm not telling you that this is the decision that you have to make, I'm just telling you what we do.
That's for your family to decide."
Schiappa explained that the new PBIS program will now reward students who have perfect attendance each week. The program allows teachers and administrators to reward students who are doing the right thing, and those who are going above and beyond what they should be doing. Attendance is just one facet of the program, and Schiappa gave an overview of the entire program. He told the parents that as students are rewarded points they will be eligible for weekly raffles and have the opportunity to "shop" for prizes, which include things such as lunch with the mayor, a free tuxedo rental or gift cards to local businesses. The students are able to track their rewards on an app that is available for their phones.
"In this way, we are able to recognize all kids for doing the right thing, not just some," he said, citing specific brain research around rewarding good behavior as a means of teaching students how to behave.
Barbieri and the rest of his administrative team, including assistant principals John Fontaine, Elizabeth Furtado and Vincent Varrechione, were on hand throughout the evening, checking in at each station and speaking to parents about the evening.
"The administrative team and our staff were looking to change things up a little bit. Rather than having a parent meeting where the parents sit in one place and hear the information, we thought it would be different to have the parents up and moving around and to hear from some of the people their children are working with every day, to see some of the things they're doing," Barbieri said.
Parents who attended received a brief survey about the event and the information gathered will be used to help plan future summits.
LEARNING THE LINGO: Katelyn Bianco from the Cranston Substance Abuse Task Force helped to educate the students at each of the middle schools about the dangers of vaping and the serious effects of the chemicals contained in e-cigarette pods.
Middle school students, staff learn about dangers of vaping
As the vaping epidemic affects young people across the nation, the Cranston Substance Abuse Task Force, Cranston Public Schools and Cranston Police Department are working together to help take on the issue by educating students.
All of the eighth-grade students in Cranston Public Schools, along with their physical education and health teachers, have been presented with a vaping presentation by Dana DeVerna and Katelyn Bianco from the Cranston Substance Abuse Task Force. The school resource officers from the middle school level were present at the assemblies.
"This is new to a lot of people. It's new even to us and to your teachers," Officer Kevin Denneny said during the Hugh B. Bain event earlier in March. "There aren't any stupid questions here today."
The students were asked a series of questions, just to get an idea of their general exposure to vaping as middle schoolers. They were asked if they or any of their peers vape, and if they knew anyone who had vaped inside the school. Hands were raised in answer to each question.
Bianco presented the students with e-cigarette basics, going over the health risks of vaping, the details about what dangerous chemicals are contained in e-cigarettes and the background about the marketing of e-cigarettes to the teenage generation, especially the Juul brand. She also detailed the history of e-cigarette production.
"With every pod, there is nicotine," she said. "You're never getting one without it. Each pod contains about 5 percent nicotine."
She equated the use of vaping devices to cigarette smoking.
"One pack of cigarettes contains 20 cigarettes. One Juul pod is the equivalent of 20 cigarettes, and if you have a bigger pod, you are getting two packs' worth of cigarettes in one pod, and the nicotine in e-cigarettes is not filtered as it is in regular cigarettes," she said.
Denneny asked the students how many of them were involved in sports or were physically active in some way. Many in the audience raised their hands.
"How many of you would take a whole pack of cigarettes and smoke it before a game or before a jog?" he asked. "There are students now who are doing that by vaping."
The students learned that vaping leads to a nicotine high, which causes an increase in heart rate, trouble breathing, damage to lungs and acid reflux. Long-term effects included coughing, irritation of the lungs, nose and throat, and dry, cracked skin.
Bianco emphasized that because vaping is relatively new, the research on true effects and long-term issues is limited. New information is learned along the way as more effects are seen with long-term use.
"The one thing we do know for sure in terms of long-term effects is that those who vape long term develop popcorn lung," she said. "Popcorn lung was first seen in popcorn plant workers who developed it from the chemicals in the butter flavor of popcorn. Popcorn lung is irreversible. Once you get it, there is no treatment to reverse it. Earlier diagnosis is better, but the longer you're vaping … the worse it is. The only way to prevent popcorn lung is not to do it – no Juuling, no vaping."
The students were asked how many of them had heard the myth that the vapor produced by e-cigarettes is only water vapor. Many hands went up in the audience.
"That is not true," she said. "They were marketed that way, but they contain an aerosol which can still be felt later. It leaves an aftermath and it leads to third-hand smoke."
She said the vapors come into contact with items, such as a bowl of fruit in a kitchen, where someone is vaping. Anyone who later eats a piece of fruit from the bowl will be consuming the same chemicals as those who were vaping.
Denneny implored the students to remember that fact and to be cautious with younger siblings and those around them.
The students were told that the chemicals in e-cigarettes include substances listed on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's harmful substances list. Those same chemicals are contained in items familiar to the students, such as antifreeze, nail polish remover, paint, pesticides, embalming fluid, cigarettes and fireworks.
"Ladies, how many of you would open up the bottle and take a big sip out of your nail polish remover?" Denneny asked. "That sounds so crazy, but that is what kids are doing when they're vaping. This stuff is no joke and it's really bad for you guys."
He said students should be angry that the e-cigarettes are being marketed to young people.
"They are targeting you because they want you to be hooked for life," he said. "It's just like a drug dealer dealing you drugs on the side of the road. They are looking to replace this current generation of smokers who are dying off. They know that if they get you now, they have you for life."
"This is not just a Cranston issue," DeVerna added. "This is happening all across Rhode Island and nationwide."
CAN’T BUY IT, DON’T SUPPLY IT: The Cranston Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force collaborated with students from Cranston East and Capitol Liquor as part of an initiative highlighting the dangers of selling alcohol to minors. This “Sticker Shock” campaign allowed students to place stickers on bottles of alcohol in order to inform others of the consequences behind buying alcohol illegally
Task force, students team for 'Sticker Shock' campaign
On Oct. 23, students from Cranston East High School joined together with members of the Cranston Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force and Cranston Police Department as part of an effort designed to raise awareness of the dangers of buying alcohol for minors.
At 2:30 p.m., 10 students went to nearby Capitol Liquor – located near Cranston East on Park Avenue – and placed stickers on bottles of alcohol that read, "If they can't buy it, don't supply it. You can be penalized with $1,000 in fines and jail time."
The "Sticker Shock" initiative was put together ahead of the school's Homecoming Dance, which took place that weekend.
"A lot of kids say that they get alcohol from older siblings, so we wanted to put that message out that you can't supply alcohol to minors," said Dana DeVerna, program coordinator of the task force. "With kids getting involved in this program, the more they own it, and can spread it to their friends."
The task force was started in 1987, and in 2005 the Comprehensive Community Action Program began to oversee the organization's leadership. The mission statement of the task force is to continually assess the needs of the residents of the city of Cranston, with the primary focus on reducing youth substance abuse.
"Cranston West has a Students Against Destructive Decisions group that they've had for 10 years. This is the first time that East has really had a group of kids that have been interested in doing this type of stuff with the task force," said Katelyn Bianco, a member of the task force.
Isa Tejada, dean of students at Cranston East, said the "Sticker Shock" initiative aims to spread the message of responsibility in a new way.
"As adults, we tell these kids not to buy alcohol, but it has a different impact when kids their age are saying it as well. So, we're hoping to really engage the kids and think about better choices," she said. "We don't have statistics saying that this is a problem within the school. But overall in general, it is a problem within our society, we see it. I have a teenager at home and have conversations with her about it, too."
School Resource Officer Rob Arruda said the initiative is a positive one for the community, and that it has a chance to be influential for high school students.
"It's a great thing that's happening here, and Dana asked me to come support it," he said. "We hope to get kids comfortable with the police by the time they are in high school. The culture today, people don't like police because of social media, and we want to break that stigma."
Capitol Liquor was chosen to participate in this event because of its close proximity to Cranston East, DeVerna said. Its owner, Aziz Kosto, was fully supportive of the initiative.
"Its absolutely a good idea that kids are taking this initiative," he said. "We always find people trying to buy liquor illegally here. We'll notice that they'll have people waiting outside, and some people even offer more money for the alcohol. It's crazy."
Kosto's partner, Teresa Matt, added: "We are a very strong store and we resist those trying to steal, or drink underage. We have cameras everywhere that people don't realize. We hope other liquor stores adapt to this and get the stickers as well … Bottom line, it's not worth it. We couldn't sleep at night knowing that someone got hurt because of what was sold to them."
At the end of the event, DeVerna spoke about how the task force will be making a commercial in the near future about the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping.
"This commercial will be released on SnapChat, Instagram and Facebook," she said. "We realized that kids don't read the newspaper, or watch television, so we wanted to appeal to them on platforms that the use every day."