Spencer Hart wants to get the word out that not everybody at Windsor High School drinks alcohol or takes drugs.
That’s why the 15-year-old sophomore is involved in DEFY, a program that challenges students to defy perception that most students drink alcohol.
“What we want to do is portray a different kind of a student body that isn’t doing that because that’s the truth,” Spencer said. “We want to show everyone that we’re here, what we support and what we do. It’s really great to get that out to people.”
Spencer is one of about 20 students who are on the DEFY street team. They pass out DEFY T-shirts, wrist bands, water bottles, cell phone stickers and posters.
DEFY, which challenges students to defy perception that most students drink alcohol, started as a campaign six years ago as a result of Windsor High School’s reputation as a party school. Results from the Healthy Kids Colorado survey taken by Windsor students revealed that 39 percent of students drank alcohol on a regular basis. As a result, Weld County Prevention Partners put together a teen street team of 15 to 20 students who wanted to change how people looked at the high school. The students created DEFY, and a year later the Healthy Kids Colorado survey showed a drop in alcohol consumption on a regular basis by 4 percent (65 percent of the students aren’t drinking).
Dick Thomas, the interim assistant principal at Windsor Middle School who has helped run the DEFY program since its inception, said those numbers have held steady for five years and that it’s rare for a campaign to have that level of positive results.
“I think (the message) is getting across great,” Thomas said. “The word has gotten out there and the students are aware of the program, and I believe they know what it stands for.”
Thomas emphasized that not everyone is doing drugs or drinking alcohol.
“I think a lot of times you hear the word everyone. Everyone’s doing it,” Thomas said. “Well, in reality, everybody is not doing that at Windsor High School, and we need to get that word out.”
Windsor High School principal Michelle Scallon said there is a great group of kids involved in DEFY.
“We really want to just get the word out there that the majority of kids are not drinking, and to get away from that reputation. The kids are trying to prove that reputation wrong,” Scallon said. “I’ve seen those kids in their meetings, and they are great kids and are doing a lot of good things for Windsor High School.”
Windsor freshman Nicole Sadek, 15, said she joined DEFY because she thought it would be cool to let everyone know that she doesn’t drink or do drugs.
“I thought it was pretty cool to see how many people don’t do drugs,” Nicole said, “To me, it’s really important because when you do drink and do drugs dangerous things can happen, and when you don’t it’s all good.”
Guy Peters, 14, a freshman, said he joined DEFY to raise awareness about alcohol.
“Right now, everyone in the school pretty much thinks everyone drinks,” Guy said. “I’m trying to change that perception about what people think, and I also think that since I’m a wrestler, and I get involved in school activities that it makes me look better as a student to be in DEFY so people know that I’m not a bad influence. I try to make my own image look great and make the school’s image look great by being in this group.”
Guy admitted there is a mixed reaction from students not involved in DEFY.
“Some people think that DEFY is great, or they think that DEFY’s a joke,” he said. “We’re trying to change that so people see that DEFY changed the school from the perception that everyone’s a drinker to it’s not that.”
Guy said DEFY’s goal is to lower the percentage of student drinkers.
“That’s pretty much our goal is to every year lower it a little bit more so eventually we possibly even have no drinkers in the school,” Guy said.
Marijuana is prevalent in high schools across the country, and Windsor is no different. Spencer said the DEFY group also is getting the word out about the dangers of other drugs.
“We’ve always been about alcohol and that’s our main focus, but this year we’ve really stepped up to other drugs, and I think later on in the future we will make that a part of our organization, mostly probably marijuana,” Spencer said.
Thomas agreed with Spencer and said DEFY will start focusing on marijuana use.
“If I remember right, the number of students that had reported that they had used marijuana in the past 30 days I believe was around 20 or 22 percent,” Thomas said. “That’s almost 80 percent not using. The big thing with this is the perception. We’re always trying to put the numbers out there and promote the number of students that are not (using).”
Windsor-Severance Re-4 School District superintendent Karen Trusler said it’s important for students to be involved in programs such as DEFY.
“When students take ownership, that’s when we see the significant impact,” Trusler said. “Having the DEFY program with a student group who are leaders, those are the ones that their peers are looking up to, and that’s what’s making a difference.”