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Daily Herald
Wednesday, September 6, 2000

Fighting Problems Behind Drug Use

By Cass Cliat
Daily Herald Staff Writer

For kids to be unhappy these days isn’t just unlucky, it’s dangerous, Lynn Kesselman told a room full of Buffalo Grove High School students Tuesday afternoon. The drug counselor told students that the key to drug prevention is fighting depression and anxiety, and then finding hope. Many students said they had never heard a message exactly like that before. Senior Mike McIntyre said the school has similar assemblies every year, but Tuesday’s focus on examining anxiety rather than the consequences of drug use was a switch. Usually, they have people talking about their own experience with drugs, McIntyre said. That’s good, but this (assembly) had both. They really sounded like they want to help kids.

Those who attended Kesselman’s emotional wellness assembly at Buffalo Grove High School said they appreciated the focus on students’ feelings. I think it was really good that they were positive and let us know it’s easy to get help, sail Melissa Peterson, a senior. Students also appreciate their school’s efforts to find a way to reach out to students in the wake of the apparent drug overdose and death of classmate Ryan Fried. But some students questioned whether the assembly alone was an effective way to warn students about drug and alcohol abuse. People aren’t taking it seriously, said a junior name Nicolette. I took it really personally, but a lot of people don’t care. They (teachers and counselors) need to get people into smaller groups and talk to them directly about what’s going on. That’s the only way the school can really reach people. The entire Buffalo Grove High School student body attended Kesselman’s afternoon assembly, and parents and community members attended a separate night meeting to get some insight into ways to fight teen drug abuse. Before student heard testimonials from two recovering drug addicts, Kesselman began by saying that parents want their kids to behave, get good grades and stay out of trouble. But the key to drug prevention, Kesselman said, is wanting kids to be happy. We get the idea that pain comes and pain goes, and that’s called hope, Kesselman said. But what about when that pain doesn’t go away? He told students that drugs are merely a means people use to try to feel normal and cover their pain and anxiety, but addicts haven’t found a way to be happy.

If you look at a person on their way out to get high, they look like a really miserable person, scared of being sober or straight, he said. The high school hosted the programs after the deaths if 18-year old Fried of Buffalo Grove and Dane Anderson, 17, of Arlington Heights indicated to educators there might be a critical need for drug education. Gail, a junior who said she was good friends with Fried, thought the message wasn’t enough. I was a drug user, I’ve been sober for three weeks, and I’m really proud of myself, Gail said. I don’t think the school can really do anything. It’s the parents. A group of about 55 parents and community members heard what their roles should be at a later meeting. Kesselman told them also that examining feelings is important, adding that parents have to be receptive and non-judgmental listeners.

I like Lynn’s attitude about coming right out and asking your child how he’s doing, parent Nancy Shuman said. If you do, and you’re willing to hear the answer, he knows you care, and that’s the bottom line. Ida Berman said much of what she heard about the importance of communication was common sense, but she attended to see what the school was doing to deal with the drugs issues. We’ll have to wait and see what kind of impact this will have with students going to see teachers and counselors, Principal Carter Burns said of the wellness programs. I think that will be the true test of how this goes.

Read more about Lynn Kesselman and the remarable work he has done over the period of time