The legalization of the sale and use of recreational marijuana in New York has been met with stiff opposition in the form of opt-outs from local municipalities. In Oceanside, the high school’s youth council made their mark on the conversation by creating signs to run on Nassau Inter-County Express buses to warn county residents about the effects the drug can have on developing brains.
Students in the youth coalition virtually brainstormed what they wanted the sign to depict and settled on how the drugs can affect brain development in teens. The bright yellow sign depicts this, reading in large, black text: “Don’t delay construction,” next to an image of a brain still being built.
“Art has always been a big part of my life, and specifically conveying messages through art,” said Isabelle Lisi, the student artist who drew the final product. “I think the message of the campaign is important and I think art is a great way to portray it.”
The final product of the year-long partnership between the youth council and the Oceanside Substance Abuse Free Environment Coalition was unveiled on June 8 in front of Oceanside High School. Project co-coordinator Alison Eriksen got in contact with the council in early 2020, and even after the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns began, the coalition and council continued their momentum through Zoom meetings, and she worked with fellow co-creator Frances Gallin.
Eriksen and Gallin commended the youth council students for taking on another responsibility on top of schoolwork and other extracurriculars. “With hybrid learning, they were able to engage their peers in campaigns and projects to learn about the effects of marijuana use on the body and brain,” Gallin said.
They also thanked State Sen. Todd Kaminsky for connecting the coalition with NICE bus representatives, as well as Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, who was in attendance, for backing legislation to prohibit smoking of cannabis on county-owned properties, including beaches, parks and sidewalks.
“We’re beyond proud of them (the OHS youth council) for being a part of this project and helping us shed light on the prevention actions that need to take place in Oceanside to keep our youth safe for the future,” Eriksen said.
Kaminsky said it was “crucial to raise awareness about the hazards of teen substance abuse.
“Oceanside SAFE’s mission to do so is admirable,” he said. “I was proud to help coordinate this effort with NICE bus in order to make the PSA education campaign a reality.”
Curran said she was also happy to see OHS students take initiative to spread a worthy message.
“I have to take my hat off to the Oceanside school community — students, teachers, parents and others for making this happen today,” she said. “I think this piece of art really tells the reality that the adolescent brain isn’t really fully developed until the age of 25. We want all of our children to reach their full potential.”
Curran added that she believes that the message may get through to children and teens more effectively if it is coming from their peers.