, Salem, MA

Local News

June 21, 2014

New grads give real-world advice to 8th-graders

Program aims to help kids say no to risky behaviors

PEABODY — Most of the time, high school students are too busy with clubs, sports and other activities to get into partying with drugs or alcohol. But when those times do come, they can say “no” and expect their friends to respect that decision. That’s the message seven new Peabody High grads imparted to 200 eighth-graders this week.

“If they’re your good friends, they’ll do what they want to do and respect your choices,” Francesca Patania told students at Higgins Middle School. If they pressure you to do drugs or alcohol with them, they’re not really friends — and you should get some new ones.

“You don’t have to not be friends with people who drink,” added Sean Walsh. He said some of his friends drink, but they know where he stands, and they respect that.

The program with recent graduates, which also included Chantel Silva, Aly Bortone, Connor Bombaci, Jake Swan and Leah Romano, was part of an annual program called Real Talk, which aims to help incoming high school students avoid making bad choices.

“We’re here today for you guys,” Walsh said. “There are so many things to do inside and outside of school that don’t involve drugs and alcohol.”

Most of the graduates were involved in varsity sports or performing arts, along with the National Honor Society, student government and other clubs, and they’re all going to college. But they could have jeopardized all that — and scholarships — by getting involved with drugs and alcohol in high school, they said.

The environment at Peabody High makes it easy to say no to negative influences, according to the grads, and they suggested everything from board games to shopping and pickup sports with friends when school’s not in session. Sometimes, they will have to choose not to go to a party or not to smoke.

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