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Get Woke for Awareness Week

Christina Lee, Section editor

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On the week of Oct. 23, 2017, Vista del Lago High School’s Leadership class organized Awareness Week, five days dedicated to raising awareness about popular issues among teenagers. Vista students wore different colors for each day of the week to show their support for various important issues.

Anti-Substance Day

On Monday, using the motto “Life can take you higher than drugs,” Vista spread positive messages about choosing to be drug-free.

Teen substance abuse remains a national concern. In 2013, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that about 24.6 million teenagers used an illegal drug at least once, which includes prescription drugs, cocaine, and inhalants. Fortunately, this number has decreased over the course of three years. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, teenage use of alcohol, heroin, and prescription opioids declined steadily by 2016.

Although rates in alcohol and prescription drugs have decreased, marijuana and e-cigarettes prove to be popular substances among high school teenagers. With at least 14 percent of American high schoolers using marijuana monthly and 12.5 percent of 12th graders possessing e-cigarettes, the drug issue concerning high schoolers cannot be ignored.

Regarding the trend in marijuana and e-cigarette usage, junior Ashley Cooray said, “They are probably easily accessible for high schoolers,” Cooray said. “I feel that people who do [drugs] don’t fully understand how it’s harming their bodies, and I think that [Anti-Substance Day] is very powerful for those who do.”

Earth Day

Tuesday marked Vista’s Earth Day. Reminders about caring for the environment on a daily basis filled the school as Vista students wore green and blue to show awareness.

Among various environmental issues, the excessive use of plastic proves to be a familiar but detrimental environmental problem. Unfortunately, 2 million tons of plastic water bottles brim American landfills, according to thewaterproject.org. These bottles take more than 1000 years to biodegrade and can produce toxic fumes if burned. Once exposed to water, plastic also releases toxins that have been related to cancer, according to MSLK’s Watershed program.

Although the environmental issue concerning plastic presents monstrous figures, teenagers can initiate change, no matter how small, by recycling and using reusable water bottles. In fact, switching to reusable water bottles can save about $1,400 per year. By taking small strides everyday to improve the environment, teenagers can make the Earth more livable.

Social Media Awareness Day

On Wednesday, Vista emphasized social media awareness, encouraging students to think before posting on social media platforms.

With the widespread use of social media apps like Snapchat and Instagram, high schoolers must consider how their actions can impact others or themselves.

According to Common Sense Media, 75 percent of American teenagers have social networking profiles. Among numerous social platforms, 79 percent of teen social media users are active on Snapchat, making the app one of the most popular social networking platforms of 2017.

However, the prevalence of social media in the lives of high schoolers presents risks of cyberbullying. The most common types of cyberbullying include offensive comments and malicious rumors. According to a survey conducted by the Cyberbullying Research Center, 10 to 20 percent of adolescents reported to have experienced harassment online. Victims of online bullying are likely to develop low self-esteem and suicidal tendencies.

For teenagers who experience cyberbullying, the best solution is to tell a trusted adult whether it be a parent, teacher, or police. Teenagers should also be wary of revealing personal information on the internet to ensure their privacy and safety.

Physical and Mental Health Awareness Day

On Thursday, Vista raised awareness of physical and mental health. For many students at Vista, balancing academics, sports, friends, and hobbies can take a toll on their mental health.

“Standards are sometimes set too high for our personal limits,” said sophomore Emily Guo. “My personal goals can be near impossible. My stress levels rise and I tend to panic.”

Studies have shown a strong correlation between mental health and academic performance. Frequent absences, difficulties adjusting to the social environment, lack of concentration, and less interest in school material are all signs of emerging mental illnesses.

Anxiety disorders such as social phobia and panic disorders which are more common among teenagers, affect more than 30 percent of American adolescents.

Depression is also common among high schoolers. Approximately 20 percent of teenagers have experienced a major depressive episode at least once before adulthood. Factors such as academic stress, peer pressure, and low self-esteem are major contributors to teen depression.

“When I don’t meet my standards, I lose my self-confidence and also my self-esteem,” Guo said.

However, 65 percent of Americans don’t get the help they need. By reaching out to therapists and professionals, teenagers can start improving their health.

“We must try to achieve [our] goals while keeping ourselves and our minds healthy. It’s important to raise awareness…to prevent [students from] putting extreme pressures on themselves,” Guo said.

Diversity Awareness Day

Finally, Vista ended the week with a day dedicated to diversity awareness, encouraging students to wear tie-dye and to remember to “accept and respect.”

At Vista, students represent their diverse student population through their many clubs. With over 80 clubs on campus, students of Vista strive to represent different races, identities, interests, and religions.

Some of these clubs include Asian Student Union, Black Student Union, Christian Student Association, Conservatives Club, Gay Straight Alliance, Muslim Student Association, and Young Progressives of VDL.

As Vista’s Awareness Week came to an end, students left with more awareness of relevant subject matters that affect teenagers like them across the country while participating throughout the week in an engaging, unifying way.

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