Last April, I had the pleasure of announcing Matthew Aragon as the SSDP Rising Star Activist at the SSDP2016 International Conference in Washington, D.C. Since then, he has gone on to establish our newest official SSDP chapter at the high school level. Since he first contacted me in late 2015, Matt impressed me with his commitment to harm reduction and peer education. I knew that he was going to be a special addition to the SSDP family when he was text messaging me a few days after our first conversation asking me for advice on how he could effectively educate his peers about how to consume drugs (including alcohol) as safely as possible if they chose to consume. This is not an easy thing to do. As many SSDPers know, when your friends are in the act of partying they usually don’t want to hear from you about harm reduction. This is even more difficult when you’re in high school and I have been personally inspired by Matt’s efforts.
This past fall, Matt was able to officially launch his chapter and he’s been holding weekly meetings with an average attendance of 30 people. I am currently working with him to develop a campaign to engage with his school district to end their zero-tolerance drug policy for student athletics and extracurricular activities.
I asked Matt to express his sentiments about his SSDP experience thus far and he sent this to me: “High school has turned out to be an ideal atmosphere for me to teach my peers about harm reduction and drug policy. We’re at an age where curiosity easily becomes experimentation, and I want to be sure that none of my peers are unnecessarily placing themselves in dangerous situations. I want my fellow classmates to recognize and think critically about the injustices of the War on Drugs, and I believe SSDP is one of the best ways to accomplish this goal. My experience so far has been nothing short of amazing.”
It is my privilege to work with him and I look forward to helping him forge a path for future high school SSDPers. Watch this space for updates on his successes.