A group of local students have taken on the task of changing the world and are grappling with building a better community.
Students from schools all over the Tooele County School District are working to bring change to their schools and their communities, all the way up to the U.S. government.
The RAD-PAC, which stands for “resist alcohol and drugs prevention advocacy coalition,” consists of students from Tooele, Grantsville, Stansbury, and Wendover High schools. It was created in 2013.
The group, part of a Tooele County Health Department program, aims to prevent underage drinking, drug and vape use. They want to educate the world about the harm of drug and substance abuse and bring change to governments.
RAD-PAC group members are 12-18. There are around 10 members.
“This is a youth coalition for students who want to help their peers avoid drugs and alcohol,” Desiree Mudrow, RAD-PAC advisor, said.
The group usually meets around two times a month at the health department.
There, their advisors educate the students about substance abuse and prevention.
“There’s no benefit to substances for anyone and especially our youth,” said Jared Hall, another group advisor. “There are so many cons we know about. It’s bad for learning and careers, and we want the best thing for all of our kids. In no way do alcohol and drugs help that.”
During their meetings, students prepare presentations for elementary schools in the county and the Community Learning Center, along with the County Council and Tooele County Board of Health, about the risks of drug, vaping, and alcohol using data collected from the Center for Disease Control and other qualified organizations.
Their presentations include evidence and statistics, like 9% of students aged 12-18 in Tooele County currently use a vaping device.
Soon, the group hopes to partner with the Tooele County School District to install prevention messaging in hallways, which will include QR codes that students will be able to scan to educate them more about substance use and risks, mainly concerning tobacco and vaping.
“Big tobacco is targeting this generation,” Desiree Mudrow said, speaking about potential messaging that may be included. “It’s important for their peers to tell them, ‘Hey, this isn’t just water vapor. This really harms us in the long term.’ It’s about being educated about that.”
The group also hosts legislative dinners where they speak to state leaders about substance use in Tooele County and encourage them to vote no to bills related to alcohol, drug, or vaping use that may negatively affect teens.
Their goal is to promote policy change and spread education.
Together, the group also participates in community service projects including putting meals at the Community Resource Center and helping out at various health department events.
Students in the group are just as passionate about preventing substance use as their advisors.
“I joined this group, because there was a presentation at my elementary school talking about how seventh grade would be a little bit different and there might be more substance use, so I thought joining this group would be a way to prevent that from happening to most of my peers,” said Abbey Mudrow, a seventh-grader at Tooele Junior High School and a member of the RAD-PAC for over two years said. “I’ve had a lot of friends turn to vapes to try to calm themselves down, but I just want them to know what they’re getting themselves into.”
Anna Brimhall, a junior at Stansbury High School, has been with the group for over two years.
“I love doing community service and getting involved,” Brimhall said. “I’ve seen it [substance use] destroy a lot of people’s lives. I don’t want to see this happen to any more people than it has to.”
Recently, the group traveled to Washington, D.C. for the 2023 CAdCA conference.
CAdCa stands for Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America.Their mission is to build drug-free communities.
The conference took place from Jan. 29 to Feb. 2. Over 4,000 students from anti-drug, alcohol, and vaping coalitions from around the United States attended.
Each student who attended the conference was sponsored by state prevention services, and they had to be a part of the RAD-PAC for a year to prove they were committed.
“It was a super cool opportunity, because all kids qualified,” Mudrow said.
While there, students listened to speakers who talked about preventing substance abuse, how to address issues related to substance abuse, the psychology behind it, reasons why individuals use substances, presentation skills, and more.
They also attended classes related to the above subjects, which went more in depth.
“The kids learned how to make logic models, how to be accurate in their data, and learned the language of prevention, and how to best pinpoint accurate targets,” Desiree Mudrow said. “It was a super awesome conference and the students learned a lot. I even learned a lot.”
The group visited the United States Capitol to talk to legislative leaders including Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee and Rep. Chris Stewart about vaping, the legalization of mini alcohol bottles, and keeping substances out of the hands of youth.
Prior to visiting with the leaders, students prepared what they would say. They practiced their presentations with state leaders at the state Capitol. Preparation was important because they had less than 30 minutes to visit with each congress member.
“Our youth advocated for themselves and their fellow youth,” Hall said. “They told them that they don’t want to see these things in their schools, and they don’t want to see their friends get involved in these substances that can be harmful, addictive, and detrimental to their learning and development.”
“We talked to the senators about taking away drugs from kids and vaping, because vaping is really high with kids in high school,” Zach West, a freshman at Tooele High School and a three-year member of the RAD-PAC said.
“We talked about our local alcohol and drug conditions,” Quinn Heiner, also a freshman at Tooele High School, who has been a member of the group for a year added. “They were very kind and concerned about it. They were really nice and listened to us. Drug and alcohol use affects many people around me and I’m seeing how it affects my peers.”
“Talking to the senators got my brain thinking about what else we can do in our community,” Brimhall said.
Before the group came home, they visited the Washington Monument and tried different ethnic foods. Their favorite food were lobster rolls, according to West.
“It was a really awesome experience,” Brimhall said. “The food was really good and we got to do fun things in our free time … It was an awesome opportunity.”
Overall, the trip helped group members grow in their knowledge about substance use and prevention. Now, they will be better able to prevent substance abuse in their own schools and community.
“They learned how to help and better serve their community,” Hall said.
The group will attend another training in Texas in July 2023.
Group advisors encourage all students to take a stand against substances in their schools.
“The biggest thing students can do is be opposed to substance use,” Hall said. “They can see it around them, not support it, speak against it, and show other students they don’t want it in their schools.”
“Encouraging their peers not to take that first step in trying substances is best,” Desire Mudrow echoed.
Students interested in joining the RAD-PAC can call the Tooele County Health Department at 435-277-2300, message the group on Instagram @tooeleradpac, or email email@example.com
“We invite everyone to come,” Desiree Mudrow said. “This is a really great opportunity for a student who wants to prevent alcohol or vaping.”