How I Ended Up On A Campaign Billboard
Imagine hearing a teen say this:
“Marijuana is not for me”
“There is no room for marijuana in my life”
“If I use it would get in the way of me achieving my goals”
“It’s my choice, It’s my future”.
These are real things teens said when they participated in the Sacramento Drug Prevention Campaign called “Future Forward”. These statements are so important and inspiring to hear from a young person. But it’s even more powerful when you say it personally. And I actually got that chance. Here is my story of how my face ended up on billboards, mall kiosks and the sides of buses all around and how it impacted my future.
What is Future Forward
So, let me tell you where this all began. “Future Forward” is a youth marijuana prevention campaign started by the SCCY (Sacramento County Coalition for Youth). It’s made up of really active youth members, non-profits, schools, parents and community members. The most exciting part is that the whole campaign was created and driven by youth and many of them ended up starring in it. The large number of youth the SCCY interviewed beforehand recommended a positive message to help youth feel encouraged and empowered to reach for what they want for THEIR future. So, the end result was the “Future Forward” campaign which encourages youth to focus on their future without marijuana. “Future Forward” is an amazing campaign that I am so honored to be a part of.
This experience happened very unexpectedly and spontaneously for me. And I wouldn’t have changed one bit of it. It was actually my first week as an employee at Omni Youth Programs after interning with them for a year. Right when I walked into the office, Cynthia, the Executive Director, asked me if I was open to the idea of participating in the “Future Forward” Campaign. She explained that they were looking for young faces to shoot a promotion video. As a new employee who was open to new experiences and opportunities, I said “Yes, of course!”. But little did I know that the ‘opportunity’ was that day. She handed me the address to the studio, told me to leave right away and hurry. I was on my way!
Walking into the studio, I saw 5 other youth there. We were given a questionnaire to fill out to help us organize our thoughts for our ‘script’, which was just telling our story in our own words. There were questions like: “What are your goals for the future?”, “Why is it important to you?”, and “Why do you choose to not use marijuana?”. We were given time to brainstorm on what we wanted to say, and time to practice saying it out loud. And then it was time to film.
For me it was nerve wracking. Having that big camera on me, people watching, and giant lights shining at me. I don’t know how actors do that all day! But at the end of the day, it was so fulfilling. Being able to express my goals for my future, why that’s important, and why marijuana is not for me all in 30 seconds is such a “short and sweet” powerful message to share with youth and peers and the community.
After shooting, I thought my campaign picture would only be on flyers that were passed around in the community. But I ended up on a huge billboard, the whole side of a community transit bus, a bus stop shelter poster, and a 10-foot-tall kiosk poster in the Sacramento Arden Fair Mall! The experience is still unreal to me.
My Take Away from the experience.
The major thing that I took from this experience is realizing that not everyone is using marijuana! Sometimes it just seems that way. But seeing how many teens were involved in the campaign was amazing. Each youth was unique in their own way. Hearing the different reasons and stories on why they decided that “marijuana is not for me” was so interesting because no one had the same story. Some reasons and goals they had were because they wanted to enter a certain profession, go to a good college, travel the world, be a role model for a loved one, or reach their true potential in a sport. The only thing they had in common was that all understood that if they were to use marijuana it would jeopardize achieving their future goal. Seeing young people speak out and show that it’s normal to not use marijuana or vape was encouraging.
The “Future Forward” campaign also encouraged parents to get involved. They included some parents with their teen, helping to encourage other parents to tell their youth they do not want their child to partake.
The “Future Forward” campaign and the people who are a part of are making a big difference in teens lives. The information that we have been sharing about the negative affects of using marijuana at a young age are being heard. It’s an outstanding and inspiring campaign that shows teens understand that their future is very important and each decision they make will affect it. I’d like to invite you to check the SCCY out and join us! It’s a warm, welcoming group. And you never know. If you join us one day you might end up on a billboard too!
Look for future article’s details and tips on how to talk to your youth about marijuana in a way that they will hear and be receptive to. Check out Omni Youth Programs YouTube videos "A Parents's Survival Guide to Adolescent Alcohol Use"
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