Congratulations to our newest SSDP chapter at Highland Park High School in New Jersey! The chapter’s founder, Oscar Lee was recently informed that his chapter would be recognized by his high school, a great victory for young people across the country. Oscar Lee has been a rockstar since day one, getting his group off the ground and working with his school to become officially approved as a student group on a high school campus.
It is often much more difficult to get a high school chapter approved than on a college campus. The rights of high school students have been under assault for a very long time and have sadly been scaled back with the recent rulings on free speech through Morse v. Frederick and Doninger_v._Niehoff. Having courageous young people who are willing to fight for justice at a young age is vital to the success of our movement and the cause of social justice.
Congratulations Highland Park High School SSDP and welcome to the movement! Here is an interview with Highland Park High’s Chapter Leader Oscar Lee:
How did you hear about SSDP?
Ahhh! First of all, I just want to say that this is totally awesome, and I never thought this could have come to fruition from a simple POLITICO article! People may accuse it of yellow journalism, but I love POLITICO for introducing me to SSDP. It is one of my favorite websites, and I happened to stumble upon an eye-catching article about marijuana lobbyists. It was love at first sight. (I hope that doesn’t sound too sappy.)
Why did you want to get involved/what made you decide to start a chapter?
I would like to say that I am a very reasonable and logical person. The War on Drugs shares neither of those traits with me, and it is one of the few things that really irk me in an insane way. It is an issue where I just have to at least try to bring change, no matter how small. At the time I read the article, I was already aware of the irrationality of our current drug policies, and it just brought to my attention an outlet through which I would be able to actually do something. The student-run aspect was the clincher for me.
What has the reception been like on campus so far? From students, teachers, and administration?
The biggest surprise really has been Mr. Williams, our principal. He has really helped make this whole process very smooth, so I just want to say: Thanks, Mr. Williams! The reception from the student body has been very positive. I haven’t encountered any haters yet, so I guess that’s something to look forward to. However, despite the positive reactions, I have also encountered slight skepticism, so hopefully this whole approval thing will change that.
What are some of the things you have planned or want to plan for the spring semester?
I want to start making some awesome posters and spreading the word immediately. There are only approximately 400 kids in our school, so I don’t see awareness as being that big an issue. After we start establishing ourselves, I want to educate my peers about the War on Drugs. Whenever I mention horrifying statistics about it, people are often shocked or surprised, which leads me to ponder which is scarier: That these things are still happening in our country or that people are oblivious to them. I also want to try to connect with the other chapters in the state and lead to some synergy!
What is the most challenging part of your experience starting/running the chapter so far?
Deciding what to do first! It really is a clean slate, and there so much possibility!
What is the most rewarding part?
The feeling one gets from changing someone’s opinion or affecting change is an insane. It’s my “natural high,” other than math homework. 🙂
What are you most excited about for your chapter/school/state/region/ssdp/drug policy right now?
BEING OFFICIAL! And finally beginning the journey of ending the War on Drugs!
What is your vision for Highland Park SSDP? Where do you see your chapter in a year? in 4 or 5 years?
In 4 years, I will hopefully be alive and in college, which means that I would no longer be involved in the chapter. My ultimate goal is for the chapter to still be functioning and present, along with a very robust roster, when I leave.