Three Day Overview of Go Purple Week 2019
What a fabulous purple filled week traveling through Rhode Island and Massachusetts, home to Herren Project and many of our Go Purple schools. The only downside was I couldn’t visit every purple school! However, all the wonderful social media posts from schools and communities going purple across the country made up for it! As the new Director of Outreach, I had heard about schools Going Purple but had no idea what I was about to experience. What I saw in schools and communities in person and on social media was overwhelming. Today’s youth are empowered, confident and making a difference! One thing is certain, when schools and communities come together, powerful things can happen.
8:30 AM: The week kicked off with a visit to MET High School in Providence, RI. MET has what they refer to as “weekly pick-me ups” where a community member comes in to make a presentation to the students educating them on important issues in today’s world and encourage them to learn more about these issues and to get involved. Herren Project was invited to come present about the treatment resources our nonprofit provides, prevention education, going purple and celebrating life substance free. I was given the opportunity to share my story my personal journey from active addiction to 9 years in recovery from drugs and alcohol. After my presentation, I was inspired by the many students who asked questions and shared their own personal experience with substance use disorder, addiction and alcoholism in their communities. Seeing first-hand the power in sharing our stories was the perfect start to the Go Purple Week.
12:00 PM: Next, I headed to Portsmouth High School in Portsmouth, RI to meet with Patriots Committed. They are a dedicated group of student athletes who live their life making healthy choices and being substance free. Patriots Committed hosts Go Purple week every year at their high school and throw an awesome purple dodgeball tournament. Inspired by the visit, Herren Project signed up a team on the spot! The students took me on a tour of their school showcasing all the purple spirit from door decorations with “I AM” posters to purple ribbons adorning the lockers and walls. I ended my visit sitting down with the students and two counselors to discuss the reasons why, they as student athletes, have made the choice to be substance free. Their feedback on what going purple means to them as young adults was motivating. Together we brainstormed ways to more effectively spread the “Be You” message to other high schools. Empowering our young people, as Portsmouth High School has, is important to prevention. It was refreshing to see such a committed group of our future leaders making a difference in their school and community.
2:00 PM: After Portsmouth High we headed to Tiverton High School in Tiverton, RI to meet local coalition leaders. Polly Allen from the Little Compton Coalition and Rebecca Elwell, Director of the Newport County Coalition are true gamechangers in their community. Newport County Coalition is doing a lot of great work throughout Tiverton, Little Compton, Middletown, Portsmouth and Newport supporting each local coalition in their efforts while coming together to raise awareness of substance use disorder and opioid use prevention. It was encouraging to learn about all the wonderful ways they are implementing Herren Project and going purple into their communities. One cool idea was how Little Compton prints out “I AM” stickers so students can fill them out and then stick them on a big poster creating an “I AM” collage. (pictured below)
3:30 PM: Next up was Marcia Blackburn, a former Herren Project board member and Faith Formation Coordinator at St. Barnabas Church in Portsmouth, RI. It was amazing to see the Herren Project message being incorporated into a religious setting. From purple braided bracelets all the youth wear during Go Purple week to many fun planned activities, including a movie night focused on creating a conversation centered around the importance of being you. St Barnabas has been going purple for 6 years!
6:00 PM: The day ended with a good old-fashioned basketball game as the Portsmouth High School women’s basketball team took on Bay View. The players wore purple Game Changer Herren Project warm ups and there were purple ribbons decorating the gym entrance. I handed out purple bracelets to all the spectators as we cheered on Portsmouth with our purple spirit. It was inspiring to watch teenagers come together to celebrate each other without drugs and alcohol.
10:00 AM: After such an incredible start to the week, I was bubbling with excitement to visit more schools. First stop of the day was to Suzanne Hole’s third grade class at Hathaway Elementary School in Portsmouth, RI where the theme of the day was “Be You.” Mrs. Hole started the morning reading a book called “Incredible You!” by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer. Through every turn of the page, the students learned about 10 ways to let your greatness shine. To further strengthen that message, each student then decorated their own personal “I Am” poster. Putting a picture of themselves on the poster, they decorated and filled in what they were most proud of about themselves. Students wrote words to describe themselves like artistic, good friend, cool, creative, amazing, smart, courageous, strong, and pretty. Watching the students come alive with creativity and proudly sharing the things they were most proud of was amazing to experience. Below is a photo of all the students holding their I Am posters. This visit instilled in me the importance of teaching children at a young age that they are perfect the way they are in order to build the confidence they need later in life to make healthy choices.
12:00 PM: My next stop was back to Tiverton High School in Tiverton, RI to meet with Jenni McNamee, the DFC Coordinator of the Tiverton Prevention Coalition. With the Tiverton Prevention Coalition office located in the high school, it allows for the coalition to work closely with the high school students. It was very encouraging to hear of the work they are doing with the students and community in the prevention of substance use disorder and how they incorporate the Herren Project message in all their Go Purple events.
1:00 PM: Straight from the Tiverton Prevention Coalition, I headed back to Portsmouth, RI to meet with Kara Jelly and Corey Silvia from the Portsmouth Prevention Coalition. Their excitement is contagious. They shared about the fantastic PMS PTO Purple Rodeo they threw for Portsmouth Middle School and the purple photo booth they set up. Below is a picture of me trying out all the purple props. They were also gearing up for the 5th Annual Dodgeball Contest put on by Patriots Committed at the high school. The Portsmouth Coalition is so present in their community and schools spreading the “Be You” message and throwing many substance free events for the youth in their area. It was uplifting to see.
2:00 PM: Hopping back in the car I drove to Melville Elementary School to meet with a group of student leaders from Grades 1 through 4 who comprise Anchor For Life. Each student is hand-picked by their teachers as a leader in their classrooms to join and then encouraged to support their fellow students when they are struggling. They meet weekly to come up with inspirational quotes of the week, talk with teachers about ways they can help their peers and encourage everyone in their school to be kind, compassionate and the best version of themselves. They spread Herren Project’s Go Purple message to be true to yourself every day in everything they do!
3:30 PM: Our last stop of the day was meeting with Lori Verderosa and Jennifer Baldwin from the Middletown Prevention Coalition. Embracing the Herren project message, they showed us the wonderful posters Middletown printed to spread the Go Purple message of making healthy choices and being you throughout the entire community. From the town hall decked out in beautiful purple lights to purple ribbons hung from walls and tables to signs across the town saying, “We are Purple,” you could feel the purple spirit! Middletown really places an emphasis on making sure parents and the entire community are included in going purple because we are so much stronger when we all come together and support each other. I was blown away by every local community coalition and the work they do spreading not only the Go Purple message but providing education and positive messaging to help the prevention of substance use disorder. See how the Middletown Prevention Coalition worked with the town to promote Going Purple.
11:00 AM: After two hours of driving in the pouring rain, we arrived at Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy in Springfield, MA. Running quickly inside with our Herren Project gear we were met by Dean of Students, Bill Scott and a group of smiling students decked out in Herren Project purple from head to toe. Putnam is a vocational school where students get a lot of hands on training, which means all the Herren Project purple gear the students were wearing was not only printed at their school but by the students themselves! Even better, the Herren Project message is taken one step further as every teacher incorporates it into their curriculum during Go Purple week in some way. The student leaders gave us a personal tour to each classroom to show us all the different ways they Go Purple to celebrate life substance free. Teachers go over the effects of drugs on the brain in science class, students in the film department create films about going purple (check it out), the sheet metal shop makes Go Purple posters, hospitality bakes purple cupcakes while cosmetology paints purple nails. It’s incredible! Then the tour ended with a special music performance sung just for us. It literally brought tears to my eyes. And if the trip couldn’t get any better, over 400 students took the Herren Project Pledge just that day. Putnam Academy is always a treat to visit because they implement going purple into every aspect of their school community. It’s become their school culture. Putnam Academy is purple and proud and Herren Project is honored to have them represent us.
2:00 PM: Filled with excitement, we headed over to meet Patrick Shaughnessy and Kirsten Huff of Addiction Campuses to discuss ways to bring Herren Project to schools in their community. We had a lovely conversation on how to get started, ways to find an advisor that students can relate to and how to get students engaged and excited to start a Herren Project club and Go Purple. Chris Herren’s message that students are perfect the way they are, that they don’t need drugs and alcohol to fit in and can be themselves is so powerful. Building that confidence in the youth in any community and to empower them to make healthy choices is an important step in prevention of substance use disorder. When our youth are empowered to lead, they can use positive peer pressure to encourage and support each other to live substance free. We shared the new and exciting enhancements coming to Herren Project in schools and communities and look forward to building on this relationship in Holyoke, MA.
Social Media: On top of these few visits, getting to see all the wonderful videos and social media posts pouring in from across the country was the cherry on top of the cake. From Manheim Central High School athletes in PA going purple (check out their YouTube video) to Quabbin Drug Response Unifying Group decorating their towns purple. Burncoat High School in Worcester, MA going purple for the first time to Petersham, MA holding a Go Purple assembly. There was Tualatin, OR students sharing I AM posters and videos to Middletown, RI’s purple volleyball game. Little Compton, RI fire trucks with purple ribbons and Portsmouth Fire and Police Department supporting the Go Purple movement. Students at Westford Academy proudly wearing “Be You” shirts to Herren Project ambassadors and supporters in their purple gear and so much more! Youngstown State University and the Andrew’s Student Recreation & Wellness Center hosted a 3-on-3 basketball tournament to help to raise awareness for Herren Project.
If you can’t tell, I could go on and on, but I will stop here. Experiencing my first Go Purple Week was beyond encouraging and inspiring. What a wonderful week filled with empowering our youth, making healthy choices, celebrating life substance free, and supporting our community members in recovery. I am overflowing with excitement and gratitude for all who support Herren Project. Here’s to just the beginning in 2019. Do you want to learn more about bringing Herren Project to your school? I’d love to help you. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Take a look at all of the fun ways schools and communities went purple in 2019!
Herren Wellness and our very own Herren Project alumni went Purple too!