We’ve all been through D.A.R.E classes in our younger years at school, but how many of those drug addiction education classes actually seemed to help anyone? After all, drug addiction and overdose rates are at an all-time high, with studies showing that 23.5 million American’s today are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. In Staten Island alone, those numbers are scarily high with eight to 10 deadly overdoses occurring each and every month since the first month this year.

Illuminart is an organization that works closely with the students of a school to create a script that would really have an impact on them, in particular. Illuminart provides actors and actresses along with a screenwriter that work with the students of the school in creating a dialogue that would be beneficial in real life drug addiction scenarios. The group is trying to provide access to these programs to students in younger grades as well, saying that they know they’re young, but by the time they end up in one of these situations it could be too late.

A New Way To Say No:  Drug Addiction Education In Staten Island High School

The group is able to offer these shows to schools for free, thanks to funds coming from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs. They travel around speaking with students to determine what types of problems, if any, that they may face in their school and how they think they would solve that problem. Randy Topper, who heads up the creative division of Illuminart, says it’s been over two decades since he was in high school and can’t relate, which is why he uses the students to create the dialogue and play content.

Illuminart uses a drug counselor and playwright to write each and every performance. The group acts out a 12 act play using adult actors. They don’t just perform at schools, but some political events as well. Additional funding for the Illuminart plays in schools came from Senator Andrew Lanza and New York City Councilmen Nick Matteo. On June 22nd this year, the group performed four sets at Assemblymen Ron Castorina’s drug forum.

Drug addiction is something that can hit close to home for anyone. Thankfully there are groups like these who are working together on new and innovative ways to educate children early on about these issues. While D.A.R.E classes may be a nice thought, they don’t really include the children and speak directly to them. With plays that are including the children in the dialogue and content, this can be an entirely new and effective way of drug addiction education in school before it becomes a problem, or too late.

If you would like to learn more about the Illuminart organization you can visit their website at www.illuminart.org.