It’s not often that a high school student is sick but begs her mother to allow her to go to school anyway, so she doesn't miss out. But with Healthy Visions
, a nonprofit that partners with local high schools to empower students with the tools needed to navigate tricky situations but still come out on top, it actually happens.
“It’s because we use young, relatable people that are cool,” says the nonprofit’s director, Carole Adlard, who founded the organization 29 years ago because she says she “saw the emptiness” in youth and “wanted to give them grounding and focus so they’d want to get up in the morning and do things.”
It’s through individuals like Drà — short for Ladrà — who go into high school classrooms and connect with students by employing humor to teach about relevant topics like relationships, sex, drugs and alcohol prevention, self harm, self esteem and acceptance. But it’s ultimately through Healthy Visions representatives’ openness and honesty that they’re able to connect.
Drà and his cousin, for example, were raised in the same household, Drà by his dad and his cousin by his aunt. They came from the same situation — one that was less than desirable, involving drugs, poverty and roaches — but took different paths.
“There’s no preaching going on with this,” Adlard says. “It’s very much discussion-based, so that’s the key aspect there, so that the kids don’t feel like they’ve been lectured. They feel like it’s a peer who’s had a little more experience than them, sharing.”
And it’s effective. In a survey conducted in May 2014, after having completed Healthy Visions’ programming 72 percent said they had stopped bullying, 52 percent said they had stopped using or selling drugs, 62 percent got out of an unhealthy relationship and 81 percent said they felt better about themselves.
“There isn’t anybody else that reaches people exactly where they are, with someone with their exact situation, and says, ‘We’re going to give you the critical thinking skills and the tools to do exactly what you want to do,'” Adlard says. “It’s the only program I’ve ever known to have lifelong changes for students, and it truly does change lives. I’m absolutely in awe of it.”
• Healthy Visions is seeking volunteer
mentors. Contact the nonprofit if you or your business is interested in helping.
• Healthy Visions is launching online programming so course content can reach teens outside of the Tristate. If you have skills to offer with regard to IT, marketing or crowdsourcing, contact Carole Adlard
• Connect with Healthy Visions on Facebook