It Matters

I was recently looking through my high school senior yearbook and reminiscing (and sometimes grimacing!) as I thumbed through pages and pages of photos. They took me back to a time in my life that, now in hindsight, was fun, carefree and exhilarating. I vividly remember being so busy during my Senior year of high school with extracurricular and social activities, that even though I had plans for life after high school, I had little time to really think about them. I was living in the moment and loving it.

And then, BAM!

High school graduation happened and I found myself in a whole new world!

I had made plans for what I wanted to DO after high school, but I had not prepared myself for how life was really going to be DOING it.

For me, life after high school meant going to college. I was ready to move on in life and was excited and looking forward to it.

So I thought.

Instead, I found myself struggling with being displaced for the first time from my family and friends and experiencing loneliness. Going from living in a large home to a “cracker jack box” sized dorm room with a roommate I didn’t know added to my loneliness and made me sad feeling like I had lost important relationships in my life. I went from being the “big fish in the pond” to the “little fish in the ocean” and felt lost. My sense of purpose and direction was waning. I questioned what I was doing and why. I was experiencing idle time and boredom for the first time in a long time and didn’t know how to deal with it. My college classes required me to study harder than I ever had to before, but making myself do it was even harder. All of my newfound freedoms I was looking forward to were now frightening to me.

I managed to maneuver through my first year of college without quitting, but doing it wasn’t easy and came with making some bad decisions and learning some hard life lessons.

My story isn’t much different than it is for many high school seniors today. In fact, my son has a similar story to mine. The transition from high school to life after high school can be one of the biggest transitions in life. Even if you think you’re fully prepared and you’ve been dreaming of it for years, many of us struggle with it, no matter if we are going to college or trade school, joining the military or jumping into the work force. Sometimes we deal with these post-secondary challenges in unhealthy ways.

Data shows that the rates of alcohol and drug use are already high in 12th grade, but the rates continue to increase after graduation. Some may experiment with substances as a way of celebrating their independence or doing it to “fit in” with their new living situation or with the new people they are meeting. Others may use substances to deal with the negative feelings they are experiencing.

The research shows that this substance use can interfere with a person’s social emotional development, physical and mental health, academic progress, job performance, relationships with others and overall happiness and success later in life. Making a healthy transition out of high school matters. It matters a lot!

This is why itMatters: Healthy Transitions will be so important. It will be an online program for high school seniors designed to focus on alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and vaping use and will be framed around the choices students encounter as they graduate from high school and into post-secondary life. The program will be completed by Seniors in less than 90 minutes on their own time or as part of a high school course or a graduation requirement and will not require any teacher training.

I say, “Will be,” a lot because it is a program yet to be designed. In fact, at this point it is a concept that is well researched, well thought out and being highly considered for funding.

I am honored to partner with , a prevention research company in North Carolina, along with the Pennsylvania State University research department, on a funding proposal that will develop, support and evaluate itMatters: Healthy Transitions. The proposal is a strong proposal and has already undergone its first review. The next submission of the proposal will be in early November and for this round we are adding letters of support from 50 high schools nationwide. A letter of support allows the 50 high schools to be first in line to be invited (not obligated) to participate in the project and eventually receive the itMatters: Healthy Transitions program at no cost! The first 50 letters of support we receive will be submitted with the proposal.

I am offering a 30-minute webinar next Wednesday and Thursday, October 13 and 14, at three different times for you and others to learn more about the itMatters: Healthy Transitions program, how your area high school(s) can get involved with the design and testing of it and the benefits it will have for your high school seniors, schools and community.

To register for one of the three webinars, just click on the image below.

 
 

If you are unable to attend the webinar and would still like to receive the letter of support template, along with a written summary of the project, ! I would be happy to forward the information to you or even visit by phone to answer any of your questions.

I am thankful I went to college and proud that I graduated on time four years later. But, I’m not going to lie. It was hard to accomplish. I just wish I had something or someone that would have made me stop long enough during my Senior year to really think about what life after high school might really be like. It’s true in that we really don’t know what it will be like until we get there. But, at the same time, some forethought and preparation would have mattered and perhaps made the transition easier and healthier for me.

Perhaps it would have mattered for you, too.

More importantly, let’s make it matter for today’s high school seniors.

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