Youth to Youth Club launches at PMS, hoping to educate on substance abuse


The Youth to Youth Club (Y2Y) is the newest addition to Pelham Middle School’s after-school activities. Originally started in the high school, it was brought to the middle school by Student Assistance Counselor Kellyanne Lonergan this year to educate students about the negative effects of substance abuse.

“I think that raising awareness [of substance abuse] at an earlier age is always a good idea,” said Lonergan.”I think that a lot of behaviors that we talk about at the high school level are seen on the middle school level and I think it’s important that middle schoolers are starting to have these conversations.”

Both the high school and middle school Youth to Youth clubs are part of an organization known as Youth to Youth International. Born in Columbus, Ohio in 1982 as a response to teenagers’ notorious leap-before-you-look attitude towards experimentation and seemingly impervious resistance to adult influence, its goal is to “harness the powerful influence of peer pressure” to prevent drug usage amongst adolescents.

“The Youth to Youth group is special because it is run by students, so they really make events that they think are important to their school and their community that they want to raise awareness about,” said Lonergan.

Sixth-grader Mackenzie Whalen joined the club because both of her parents are smokers. “I thought it would be a good idea to do this club because I thought that I could learn more about it and give my parents more reasons about why they shouldn’t smoke,” she said.

Whalen attended the first meeting with sixth-grader Elizabeth Conde on Oct. 12 in Lonergan’s office. Lonergan acknowledged that the club needed more members and urged both girls to get more of their peers involved. Nonetheless, the club already has a variety of student-led events planned for each month of the school year, such as Red Ribbon Week in October and the Great American Smokeout in November. The club gives out community service hours to anyone who participates.

“We are using Youth to Youth as a great way to get [anti-drug messages] across to our students,” said Lonergan. “Often in adolescence, kids would rather hear from their peers than adults.”

Although it still focuses on alcoholism and drug abuse, the club is also going to discuss more recent behaviors like e-cigarette use and the negative influence of social media.

“I know a hot topic right now is vaping, e-cigarettes and Juuling, I know that that’s what students have been bringing up the most so far,” said Lonergan. “But there really are some other things too. I know social media is a big thing right now. I think that part of our youth today is that social media has enhanced the urge to fit in and to do what seems to be cool, whether that be in person, on social media, in schools, sports or after-school activities. That’s why I think it’s so common for students to get involved in not such great behaviors like Juuling.”

Lonergan also coordinates with eighth and tenth-grade health classes, where she teaches prevention education. She noted that teenage substance abusers did not tend to be any specific gender, and she believes that the best way to discourage drug use is to encourage other healthy behaviors. She suggested joining one of the myriad clubs offered at both Pelham Middle School and Pelham High School or join a band, orchestra, or chorus.

“I was just at the club fair last week and there are so many great clubs, especially at the high school level. The high school has so many opportunities to get involved whether that be in sports, in clubs, in band or chorus or theater,” said Lonergan.

The Middle School Youth to Youth club meets every other week on Wednesday in Lonergan’s office. Their next event is Say Boo to Drugs, which will take place near Halloween.