The DrugSense Initiative

The DrugSense Initiative is a program that includes lessons to raise awareness to combat drug use and reduce its devastating effects.

Photo of Alyssa Shah
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Additional categories (optional)

  • Education

Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth

08/06/2004

Help us stay in touch!

Alyssa Shah 525 East 86th St #19B New York, NY 10028 212-829-0767 (home)

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

website: www.drugsenseinitiative.org twitter: @DrugSenseInit ReigningIt: https://medium.com/@ReigningIt/women-who-reign-alyssa-shah-463bf65081e7

Date You Started Your Project Started

07/23/18

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

I want to solve the youth vaping epidemic. I first learned of the teen vaping epidemic as a change maker scholar at the United State of Women Conference. E-cigarettes are tailor made for kids: smoke-free, taste good, easy to hide, and addictive. One in 11 middle school children vape and lung injury due to vaping is skyrocketing. I am passionate about educating teens about the dangers of vaping and ultimately hope to help stop this epidemic.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

I believe that awareness is the first step to tackling any issue. In response to the vaping epidemic, I created The DrugSense Initiative, a free online curriculum to teach teens the facts and dangers of vaping. I partnered with middle and high school teachers, pediatricians, and addiction specialists to create the learning modules. My curriculum contains modules and interactive lessons on the brain and its response to nicotine, electronic cigarettes, JUUL, marketing tactics, and advocacy and assistance. I believe that most kids would not have started vaping if they knew how dangerous it was beforehand. By creating engaging content, I believe I can educate those who need it most. With the right balance of research and interesting material such as videos and photos, I believe these experiences can effectively inform both youth and adults about what vaping is and why it’s harmful. Each module includes two takeaway questions to make sure that the information was taught effectively and understood. Housed on an interactive platform by EThreeZone, responses to each question are recorded, and this way I can make sure that the material in my curriculum is being understood.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

I first learned about the vaping epidemic two years ago. I was curious about what vaping was, who the creators of e-cigarettes were, and why it was suddenly becoming so popular. I researched vaping, learned of its dangers, and then realized that it was a much larger problem than I could have imagined. I was surprised to learn that the majority of teens did not know what was in an e-cigarette, but what was even more shocking was the way companies were marketing their products to teens. The more I researched, the more I realized I had to do something to educate teens about vaping. I began asking my friends what they knew about vaping. Most of them didn’t even know that it was addicting, let alone dangerous. They were naïve. It was this realization that led me to create my educational platform, The DrugSense Initiative, to teach teens and adults about why vaping is harmful to the body.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

My program is a tool that schools, pediatricians, and addiction specialists can use to teach about the dangers of vaping. On the homepage of my website is a video about why I created this program and why this issue is important to me. Beneath the video are three buttons: academy, certification, and topics. After clicking topics, users see 7 topics covering many aspects of vaping. Underneath each topic are corresponding lesson plans. For example, if the user wants to learn about what vaping is and why it’s harmful, they would go to “Vaping 101” and find four lessons. Each lesson is a presentation that includes images, videos, and text that explain that topic. To ensure that users are understanding all of this information, I embedded questions throughout each lesson that would reflect the knowledge they already learned on the prior slides and any knowledge gaps that they may still have.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

The DrugSense Initiative is a unique program because there is simply no other online, interactive, and comprehensive drug awareness educational program like it. Vaping is a national concern, but we are still learning new information about it every day. When I first decided to create an online program on this topic, I started researching to see if there were any other programs similar to mine. Since there was no other curriculum specifically designed to teach youth everything they need to know about vaping, I knew that The DrugSense Initiative could have a meaningful impact.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Most middle schools do not have drug awareness education programs. The DrugSense Initiative, a curriculum that consists of online modules and experiences, videos, and statistics, is being used to educate youth about the dangers of vaping in two middle schools in Westchester, New York this year, impacting over 400 children who would not have otherwise had access to a drug awareness curriculum. I have also partnered with several pediatricians who are using my curriculum in their practices. I am partnering with 3 additional middle schools in the spring and hope to educate as many children as possible about the dangers of vaping and substance abuse. Eventually, I hope that The DrugSense Initiative will be used in schools nationwide and ultimately help play a major role in stopping the vaping epidemic.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

Even though there has been a lot of publicity about e-cigarettes, teen awareness and education will be important in fighting the epidemic. I hope to spread the word about my project through the Congressional Youth Committee for Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, United Nations GirlUp, and NYC Youth Leadership Council. I am the Health and Wellness Ambassador for The Malcom Jenkins Foundation and am working to have celebrities endorse my curriculum and share their personal stories about drug abuse. I will also have regional ambassadors who will use my curriculum in their area. By targeting a broad geographic range of schools, I hope that my curriculum will gain momentum as more schools use it across the country.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Brand Development

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani) (9)
  • Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander (for example: Native Hawaiian, Samoan, Chamorro, Tongan, Fijian, Marshallese) (12)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • No, I do not identify with an underrepresented community

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media

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The DrugSense Initiative was featured in ReigningIt.

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Photo of Jenn Smith
Team

Great idea! I think the experiences are wonderful and I hope more teens visit this site. We need to solve this national epidemic and raising awareness is an important first step.

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