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Allston-Brighton youth craft quilt showing why they don’t submit to peer pressure

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  May 10, 2013 12:56 PM

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(Allston-Brighton Substance Abuse Task Force Youth Coalition)

The Youth Coalition unveils its Above the Influence quilt at the Oak Square YMCA. Pictured: Lauren Antonelli-Zullo, ABSATF staff; State Representative Kevin Honan; Helen Connolly, ABSATF project manager; Elisabeth "Hyori" Lam, Youth Coalition member; City Councillor Mark Ciommo; State Senator Will Brownsberger; and State Representative Michael Moran.

The following is a press release from the Allston-Brighton Substance Abuse Task Force Youth Coalition:

The national Above the Influence (ATI) campaign run by the Office of National Drug Control Policy helps youth recognize and acknowledge the factors in their lives that keep them above the influence of peer pressure. Focusing on the positive gives them the power to say no to negative influences. The Allston-Brighton Substance Abuse Task Force (ABSATF) Youth Coalition (YC) recently created its own interpretation of the ATI principles through completion and sharing of a quilt that represents the positive influences that keep them ATI.

The ATI quilt project was born through discussions with Emily Bhargava, an outside consultant from the Education Development Center, who walked the students through their goals. The YC wanted to spread awareness of their group, let others know that they are above the influence and serve as role models. They decided a quilt would allow these messages to be shared while hanging in prominent locations throughout A-B.

Using fabric markers and paint, the students worked with assistance from Bhargava, also an artist, to create squares depicting positive influences such as sports, music, family, friends and religion. ABSATF staffers Liz Parsons and Lauren Antonelli-Zullo and ABSATF co-chair Maria DiChiappari assisted the students in their work.

“It was a privilege to watch the making of the quilt happen by the youth coalition. I was inspired to see their creativity in making their own quilt squares that highlighted what they do to stay above the influence,” said DiChiappari, director of the Boston College Neighborhood Center. “I enjoyed helping with the small details of sewing and gluing and loved even more seeing their enthusiasm as the quilt came together.”

Hyori Lam, a senior at John D. Bryant High School, said her ATI square on the quilt contained “optimistic words around the ATI symbol” that were meant to give others the strength to say no to peer pressure. Personally it is her 4-year-old niece who gives her the strength to remain ATI.

“I want to become an amazing aunt to her and while I watch her grow up, I want to teach her not to do the same mistakes as other teenagers do to fit in, such as marijuana, smoking and drugs,” said Lam.

Throughout the school year, the Youth Coalition, made up of high school students throughout A-B, have participated in ATI training via discussions and activities which render them capable of leading ATI discussions with others. The ATI message resonates with 17-year-old YC member Adriana Milsap-Johnson because she has seen firsthand the effects of substance abuse.

“It changes people, sets them back and causes health problems. In this generation, it is an accomplishment to make it out of high school, even junior high, not having engaged in substance use,” said Milsap-Johnson who is headed to Suffolk University in the fall.

On the last Saturday in April, the quilt was hung at the Oak Square YMCA during the Y’s Healthy Kids event for which 300 families and legislators turned out. After the Y, it will head to the Gardner Academy in Allston.

Previously the YC participated in “Tag It” in which they took pictures of ways they were above the influence and shared them on social media during national ATI day last fall. Parsons, the YC coordinator, anticipates training another group of students next year (there are 10 departing seniors this spring) and perhaps working with other communities on collaborative ATI projects. The message has the potential to change the way youth think about their lives.

YC member Michelle Ng said, “Throughout the past year I’ve had some time to reflect on the effect that substance abuse can have on you. It can completely ruin your life as you know it and destroy any dreams you may have had for yourself. The more I thought about it, the more it made me want to keep above the influence.”

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