Alex Zemeckis Pays it Forward at Santa Barbara Middle School

Are you smarter than an 8th grader? Definitely not!

Before school ended, I had the opportunity to speak with the 8th & 9th-grade classes at Santa Barbara Middle School. “My talk”, is my story growing up with drugs & alcohol combined with an interactive discussion regarding all types of addictions & addictive behavior. I let the students facilitate the group; engaging each other in a safe, supportive manner. I’m always amazed at how knowledgeable on this subject they are.

Year after year, I’m reminded that these kids know so much more than me. Time & time again I’ve heard parents, teachers, clinicians, “adults” in general talk about how kids “know everything”. That’s nothing new, we’ve all had that discussion and we’ve all been that adolescent that knows way more than our parents- right? It’s the natural cycle. But, it scares us that on this subject, maybe they do know it all.  In my opinion, we often discuss this topic from a place of FEAR.  Why are we so terrified that kids know more than we do about tough issues & how can we keep up??? OMG! That’s just it. We will never keep up.  We need to try to say educated yet surrender to the fact that we may never get ahead. How could we keep up with new synthetic drugs on the market, Craigslist code names/aliases to score drugs, etc.?  We can’t.  What we can do is share our experience, stay aware and take action when necessary.  Most of all, we need to keep talking about it so they know it’s safe and ok to not have all of the answers.
Every year going into my presentation I think to myself, “What are these kids going to learn from me? How is a 31-year-old relatable to a 13 & 14-year-old? They’re not going to take me seriously!” But then 2 weeks later, I start getting these amazing handwritten letters from students. Not only thanking me but sharing their personal experiences with an older brother, a cousin, mom or dad, etc. Often, seeking guidance, suggestions & advice.  Showing clearly that they are in the thick of it and that this problem is definitely not going away.      That’s when I know I’ve connected.