Risky Business: Falmouth High School: Prosocial 101
By: DR. MICHAEL BIHARI, April 9, 2014
During the past several months, the Risky Business column has focused on the growing problem with heroin addiction and overdoses on Cape Cod. It’s important to remember, however, that the majority of teens in Falmouth are not involved with underage drinking or marijuana use; and, only a small minority misuse or abuse prescription pain killers or heroin.
Although the reasons teens use or don’t use illegal substances is complex, we do know that parental involvement, positive peer pressure, a supportive school culture, and involvement in prosocial (as opposed to antisocial) activities are important factors in helping local teens to avoid alcohol and drug use.
Research has shown that teens who perceive more opportunities for involvement in prosocial activities in their community and schools are more likely to participate in such activities and less likely to use drugs or alcohol.
Prosocial activities include regular physical activity, organized sports, organized non-sport activities, religious activities, and volunteer activities, such as community cleanups, yard work and chores for seniors, mentor younger kids in reading or math, or help coach community-based sports teams.
The Falmouth public schools are very supportive of prosocial activities and over the past several years have worked closely with the Falmouth Prevention Partnership to create an appropriate culture for helping Falmouth teens avoid drug use. School-based programs such as VIPS sponsored mentoring and No Guff week are examples of established prosocial programs.
Jack’s PACT is an excellent example of a community and school-based prosocial organization. Jack’s PACT stands for Positive Alternatives for Community and Teens. The PACT evolved from a memorial scholarship fund established for Jack Pearsall, a 16-year-old Falmouth boy who was hit and killed by a drunk driver in July 2011 as he was leaving a fireworks display at Mashpee High School with friends.
The mission of the organization is “to support initiatives and develop our own that deter drunk driving and other risky behaviors surrounding substance abuse among youth in our community.” To accomplish this, the PACT supports prosocial activities for youth, education and awareness, and encourages people of all ages to sign the “PACT” pledging not to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The PACT provides scholarships each spring to graduating Falmouth High School seniors and donates to other positive activities, including Celebrations After Prom Party, Joe Kirk Memorial Soccer Tournament, Falmouth Service Center’s Holiday Gift Drive, and requests for other enriching opportunities for students.
Jack’s PACT Goals
• Provide teens and youth with fun, engaging, healthy, safe, and positive alternatives to drinking and other risky behaviors, while aiming to reduce and prevent drunk driving.
• Collaborate with other groups and individuals to raise awareness in the community about the seriousness of drunk driving and encourage people of all ages to sign Jack’s PACT, a pledge not to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
• Advocate for changes in legislation and make consequences more severe for OUIs and vehicular homicide while under the influence.
The organization has two scholarship opportunities for Falmouth students.
Jack’s PACT Scholarship was established to reward and assist students who have shown they are outstanding role models and/or leaders among their peers and in the community. The purpose of the Jack’s PACT Scholarship is to help students who need financial assistance pursue their goals after high school. Applicants must demonstrate one or more of the following: their ability to make positive choices; have strong beliefs about being substance-free; help and work well with others; be positive role models in and out of the classroom; demonstrate leadership skills; and show they care about and are involved in their community.
The Jack Pearsall Memorial Soccer Scholarship was established in memory of Jack Pearsall, an energetic, enthusiastic, extremely competitive athlete who loved soccer more than anything else. The soccer scholarship helps students who demonstrate their passion for soccer and willingness to further their studies who might otherwise be constrained due to finances.
In the last two years Jack’s PACT has given away more than $12,000 in scholarship awards to help dozens of high school seniors pursue their goals after high school, whether it be studying at a four-year university or volunteering overseas.
To learn more about Jack’s PACT, including pledging not to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, scholarship applications, and volunteer opportunities, visit the PACT’s website at: www.jackspact.org.
Visit The Partnership Website
To learn more about substance abuse prevention and parenting please visit our website at www.falmouthprevention.org.
(Dr. Bihari is a pediatrician, a member of the board of directors of Gosnold on Cape Cod, and a member of the School Health Committee of the Falmouth Public Schools)