Project Chuck encourages middle school students to stay away from illegal substances


Madison Szczepanski, Assistant Managing Editor of Social Media

Project Chuck is a very important educational opportunity for both middle and high school students. Every year, a select group of juniors and seniors are chosen to go to Forest Hills Central Middle School and inform the seventh and eighth graders about drugs and alcohol use, especially in high school. This year, seniors Marisa Roberts and Ilma Seperovic have been chosen to be in charge of the selection process of the instructors that will be teaching at the middle school.

“Last year, I noticed that most of the kids involved with [Project Chuck] last year were somewhat involved with drugs and alcohol,” Marisa said. “I didn’t like that, so I told myself, “if there aren’t any kids involved as a head member, I would like to be involved, and I would like to be in charge of that.'”

Marisa really wants to make sure that the middles schoolers know that having fun during their high school years doesn’t mean getting involved with unhealthy substances.

“The goal is to [show] a group of teenagers that you can still have a good time in high school and not be involved with drugs and alcohol,” Marisa said. “[I want to show that] it is okay to go to parties, but just not to get involved in that. We want to be good role models for these kids and connect with them.”

Marisa realizes that eighth graders are at a very vulnerable state of mind when they are getting ready to enter high school. As a high schooler, informing the middle schoolers about something that is a part of so many students lives is a big deal for Marisa.

“I believe it has helped me gain a different perspective,” Marisa said. “It has offered me a big leadership role, taking on such a process like this. I am influencing the entire eighth grade class right now, so that is a pretty big deal. I am really honored to do it. I have always wanted to do it. I remember when I was in eighth grade and we did Project Chuck, I was like, “this is really cool because these are high schoolers taking time out of their day. I want to be like them when I grow up.a�� So, here I am, four years later.”

Ilma also feels that by being an instructor through the Project Chuck program, she has learned a lot. But, she thinks the selection process of the instructors needed fixing.

“They had seniors in charge of it last year, but we saw that they had some issues and we wanted to take over and make sure that this year would be different from last year,” Ilma said. “We saw a lot of kids that would be going down to the middle school that shouldn’t be going down there.”

Ilma and Marisa both think that the middle schoolers will take the program more seriously if the high schoolers teaching the program are obviously against the use of drugs and alcohol. They recognize that it might be awkward for the middle schoolers to listen to other people blatantly talk about substance abuse, but it is extremely beneficial.

“It is definitely weird [to openly talk about drugs and alcohol with middle schoolers],” Ilma said. “The first five minutes are about the most awkward moments of your entire life. Once you get to know the kids and do icebreakers, it just becomes a really fluid conversation and they are obviously intrigued. You just tell them straight up, “hey let’s be honest. I’ll tell you what you need to know, what you’re curious, about and I’ll answer [your questions] for you. I’ll answer stuff that you’re not comfortable talking to your parents or teachers about.’ We’re just trying to help them understand not only the science aspect of drugs but also their curiosity.”

For juniors and seniors that are interested in becoming a student instructor, the application forms will be released on Monday, March 6 of 2017. Students will have a week to fill them out and submit them for selection.

“There is a written application with short answer questions. It is a really simple application process,” Marisa said. “As long as you have a well-written application and you seem passionate about the subject, then we are likely to choose you. Right now, we are looking at picking around 30 students as instructors.”

This year, the seniors and staff that are selecting the instructors for Project Chuck are really making sure they filter out the students that are just hoping to skip class, and also those that are involved with drugs and alcohol.

“We are gathering a group of teachers and staff members from the building to help us look through the applications so we can get their word,” Marisa said. “You have to commit to at least a total of six hours, but you can split it up. You have to expect that this is going to be a lot of work and you have to make good choices and choose wisely with your words.”

A main goal of Project Chuck is to bring people together and be open and honest with each other. Ilma and Marisa are hoping that through the program they are helping to revise, that goal can be successfully achieved.

“[Project Chuck] connects me with students that I am normally not connected with,” Ilma said. “I am talking to middles schoolers. I am in their perspective, and they are in my perspective. It is like a two-way street, and we are both helping each other out.”