"A Jailhouse Conversation" now being used as a teaching tool at a Greece school

Students watch the 13WHAM Town Hall special, "A Jailhouse Conversation" (WHAM photo)

Greece, N.Y. - A jailhouse conversation about opioid abuse is now being used to help local students understand the destructive power of addiction.

This week, Greece Arcadia High School showed 10th graders a 13WHAM Town Hall special on how opioid addiction impacted the lives of four inmates at the Livingston County Jail.

"I definitely know it opened my eyes a little bit more,” said student, Ely Rivera.

Students were captivated by the inmates' stories, saying they came away with a better understanding of the power of addiction.

“Especially, when people would rather actually be in prison other than with family, just because he's scared for himself.” Rivera said. “Just really proves just how bad heroin really is.”

A number of hands went up when students were asked if they knew someone addicted to an opioid, a new normal in today's society.

“We have a problem with mental illness,” said Arcadia health teacher, Kristine Penrose. “So if we can prevent them from going down this path of substance abuse by teaching them about just how powerful this addiction is, we're successful."

The students in Penrose's health class listened as the inmates shared how heroin use landed them in the jail, away from their families.

“I feel bad for them,” said 10th grader, Marissa Rathbun. “Because a lot of them didn't do it to themselves. Like, they have other problems that led to them picking up heroin using these drugs, so they could feel normal and not. Like, how they had felt with depression."

“It helps you understand what it actually does to you,” said Karlee Keane. “It makes it click in your head before it actually happens to you."

“Having watched the video really helps, because you never know the person sitting in the classroom watching that. You never know, you could have shifted their thoughts," said Branden Figueroa.

The video opened up a classroom dialogue. Students even shared some of their own personal stories.

"I could relate to every single person on there on so many levels," said Keane, whose aunt struggles with addiction. "She has four kids. It becomes emotionally unstable for me, because I just feel overwhelmed that they have to come live with us sometimes so they don't have to go house-to-house, Because, if they go to foster care, they'll have to get split up. We don't want that to happen to them."

Figueroa lost two cousins to opioid-related deaths.

"It was the biggest shock of our family this year,” he said. “He was a clean man. He relapsed. He was going to church. He was praising God. One day, my other cousin went to his house to check on him and just found him dead, reading a Bible, which was really deep for us.”

The hope is first-hand experiences like the ones shared by the four addicts can teach kids more about addiction than textbooks.

“I feel like a lot of people don't believe it until they see it,” Rivera said. “I think we should definitely be more visual with what's really going on."

A couple students believe there's one reason why the heroin epidemic is skyrocketing among teens.

"A lot of musicians and things are talking about these bad, bad drugs and pills,” Rivera said. “I think that that has a big part to do with it."

Penrose said she plans to use this video as part of her curriculum.

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