Alliance for Safe Kids (ASK), a Yorktown Heights-based non-profit organization, returned Sunday, Feb. 8, with the annual “Save a Life” program. The program is intended to inform and empower high school students and adults alike to be “community allies” and first responders themselves to support individuals in crisis.
At Save a Life, students were able to register online for the event and attend a screening of the local documentary “Whispering Spirits” about Justin Veatch, a musician who tragically died of a drug overdose at 17 years old. Commentary was provided after the documentary by his father, Jeffrey Veatch. After the screening, the students were able to be involved in a variety of different interactive workshops.
One workshop focused on youth mental health with professionals who were able to provide bits of information on different misunderstood mental illnesses that are surprisingly common amongst the age group. At the end of the workshop, the students are able to sign up for a monthly discussion group at the Alliance for Safe Kids office, providing them with a resource for coping, information, and friendship. The next workshop involved the Yorktown Police Department entitled “House Parties.” Here, the YPD was able to provide the teenagers with useful information on what to do if they were to find themselves in a questionable situation. The police department was there to openly and honestly discuss with the teens what exactly happens when the police officers are called, and to prevent reckless behavior by partygoers that could potentially cause harm to themselves or others in fear of being caught. Hope’s Door was in attendance to lead “The Dating Game.” The interactive game had three contestants reading from scripts, all of which represented a different type of relationship. One was depicted to be an extremely abusive relationship, another represented a bachelor that seemed alright, but had some key warning signs (like constantly wanting to check his partner’s text messages or tell them who to hang out with) and the third contestant was “the good guy,” who was a prime example of a healthy relationship.
Alliance for Safe Kids Coalition Coordinator Liz Talbert noted that a lot of the teenagers “think that ‘that guy’ in the middle is totally fine and normal, and he’s clearly not. There are some hidden things going on.” With that, it’s clear that events like Save a Life are definitely great resources to educate these children. Lastly, there are a lot of hands-on displays including a state trooper who brought a drug display unit to help those who may be simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Also, there was a brief workshop on the basics of alcohol poisoning, and what to do if you think someone has it. This is not just beneficial but important, as it’s not taught in basic First Aid training. These students, participating in the event are what Talbert calls the “go-to” kids. These are the kids that will be the ones to notice that there’s someone whose been drinking a little too much, or that one of their friends is hanging out with the wrong crowd; They’ll be the ones to say something. By working with these “go-to” kids, the hope is they’ll be able to recognize the sign of alcohol poisoning, and know what to do. They’re the “first responders” until the police can get there.
Alliance for Safe Kid’s Save a Life is geared towards not just educating kids as to why drugs and alcohol should be avoided, but what to do in case an unforeseen situation arises. It seems like so much to just provide in a few short hours, but as Talbert describes it, “it’s just the beginning of a conversation.” There are programs going on throughout the year that support each and every workshop offered at Save a Life where the participating students can continue educating themselves, and working towards a safer and healthy community. There is also a program for adults on youth mental health that provides anyone and everyone with basic information so that they will be able to recognize that something’s just not right, and seek help for themselves or their family before it’s too late.
ASK was founded in 2002 by members of the Yorktown community in order to “provide a safety net for the youth and families” of Yorktown. ASK is an association that works with teenagers, parents, educators and law enforcement to provide the impressionable youth with the information and skills needed to make healthy decisions while also working with their parents to offer information about how to protect their children from these dangerous and unforeseen circumstances.
To do this, ASK uses a variety of different strategies. First, and most obviously they work to raise awareness of substance abuse and other destructive behaviors. Additionally, ASK reaches out to parents to promote communication between parents and children. In doing this, the hope is there will be reduced access to alcohol to teenagers as parents and older siblings learn to refrain from providing it. Likewise, ASK also strives to provide alternate activities to youth by organizing safe, substance-free opportunities for socialization.