This spring, I was so excited to perform at so many high schools, spreading awareness and promoting education about the opioid epidemic. My letter tonight is to the high school audiences we performed for this spring. Specifically to Barrington High School, Juanita Sanchez, and Woonsocket High School. 

The amazing thing about COAAST is how much it has taught me. It has been, without a doubt, one of the most enriching experiences of my life. The more I learn, the more hopeful I get for the future. This past leg of the tour gave me a lot of hope. In particular, these students gave me a lot to be hopeful for. 

Looking back, I witnessed a young man, in tears, confess to us, and his peers that his father is an addict. He beseeched the audience to make this a topic of conversation, siting that this is the only way to break down the stigma and promote healing. I watched a young lady who was essentially a stranger to her classmates talk about how her parents are both addicts and how she was living with her grandmother. I saw several students ask questions in hopes of becoming more informed and more aware. I saw students share their stories and trust one another enough to listen and understand. 

When I was their age, I could have been telling stories and asking questions as well. I could have been talking about my father who was an addict when I was born, all through my childhood, and who is currently an addict with no plans of recovering. I could have asked how to understand him. I could have asked how to wipe away the guilt that I knew shouldn’t have been mine. I could have asked how to raise awareness and break down stigma. But I didn’t. Because of the stigma that surrounded my father’s activity, I was trained to not speak of it. No one, not even my close friends had even the slightest idea that something was out of place in my life. 

Now, I have observed high school kids doing exactly what I felt like I could never do, and this gives me a lot of hope. I watched these brave young people come out and say things and ask questions that I never thought I could ask when I was their age. This tells me that the work we are doing at COAAST is getting through to them. It tells me that this generation, as much as people like to put them down for their use of technology, are becoming more bold when it comes to talking about important subjects like these. 

It is gratifying to know our work really has an impact. It’s incredible to watch it igniting a fire to spread awareness and promote healing in young people. High Schoolers, please never lose that drive, the eagerness to share, that beautiful vulnerability, and that desire to learn. You are the hope we all need.