16:11 PM

Pssstttt! Hey Kid, Got Something for You: Drug Awareness Service-Learning Event


By Laura Wagner

More than 100 high school students from Aldine ISD’s Avalos P-Tech School visited campus Nov. 10 for series of presentations by UHD College of Sciences and Technology students on drug awareness. 

Organic Chemistry Lecturer Dr. Vishaka Shembekar (Dr. Vish) and Dr. Rachna Sadana, Natural Sciences Chair and Professor of Biology, welcomed students from Aldine ISD’s Avalos P-Tech School to the event, which was sponsored by the Impact Learning Office. Presentations covered the chemistry of commonly used/abused drugs and their effects on the body and mind, including Xanax, Adderall, Fentanyl, LSD, nicotine, Oxycontin, and alcohol, among others.

UHD students presented legitimate uses and benefits of the drugs as well as issues around their abuse and potentially dangerous additives. Presentations covered signs, symptoms, and dangers of addiction or dependency as well as resources to support those struggling with either.

High school student attendees engaged with the speakers, asking questions throughout. After the presentations, UHD students held poster sessions, allowing the high school attendees to dive deeper into the topics presented.Dr Vish and President

Attendee reviews were unanimously positive. Psychology senior Oralia Garza, a current student in Dr. Vish’s Chemistry class, believes this kind of event is a good way to educate high schoolers, who she feels aren’t aware enough of the dangers of common drugs. “We need to share with youth the facts about these drugs, especially fentanyl. I don’t think students know that other drugs are being mixed in with the fentanyl they buy, like Xanax, and it can lead to an accidental overdose.”

Sophomore Biology major and Dr. Vish supporter Melanie Roman felt the event was important not only to illustrate the potential effects of common drugs, but also to present options for getting help. “It’s a good way to show the kids all the resources that are available to them or to someone they know who they want to refer to a resource to deal with a substance-use disorder.”

Avalos P-Tech School sophomores Karla Menendez and Joaquin Flores gave five stars to the event. “I think a lot of students don’t know about the addictive qualities of some of these drugs, like Adderall,” said Garza. “I knew it could help with focusing, but I certainly didn’t know it was addictive!”

Flores, who was handing out fentanyl warning brochures, agreed. “Students know that some of these drugs, like e-cigarettes, are dangerous, but they don’t know how dangerous. It’s good that the people at UHD are showing the potential consequences that kids may not be aware of.”

Dr. Vish hopes to hold the event at least annually, and ideally, twice a year, given how important the topic is for America’s youth. “Let’s make our younger generation wiser by helping them make informed decisions, ” she said.