Two clubs at Highland Park High School strive to dismiss the idea it’s cool to drink or take drugs in high school. While the groups started almost a year apart from each other, they work together to mentor eighth graders before their transition to high school.
Junior Ali Garrett and senior Arthur Berry had similar middle school experiences, with reservations regarding the alcohol and drug use often associated with high school. “I had this perception of high schoolers,” Berry said. “I thought almost everyone was either drinking or doing some type of drugs. All of my friends had that same perception.”
Thanks to their older siblings, Garrett and Berry understood that’s what it was: a perception. But, what about those who wouldn’t have someone to point them in the right direction?
“Think about all the children that are eighth graders … they need an older brother, older sister or someone to go to just to talk about what to take in high school or how to get involved,” Garrett said.
When Berry decided to take action in his sophomore year, he sought the advice of a school authority, HPISD Coordinator for Student Integrity and Compliance Jerry Sutterfield.
“There is a thought not only in our community, but also others, that using alcohol as a teenager is a right of passage through high school,” said Sutterfield, sponsor of the two clubs. “There are those that will and those that won’t. Then, there is a large group in the middle that are trying to make decisions on what to do.”
Berry’s idea was right up Sutterfield’s alley, and he strongly encouraged him to take the next step and form the True Grit club in May 2014. The first meeting was held the following September.
Garrett heard about True Grit and realized it was exactly what she wanted for her peers. Her motivation was personal. “I saw my own friend go down the wrong path, and I was thinking that I just wanted to help her,” Garrett said. “There needs to be a club for someone to go to not to do that and have a group of friends that cares.”
The Arrow Club had its first meeting in September and brought in more than 40 girls. The clubs are comprised of HPHS girls and boys, respectively. They meet once a week with the eighth graders, breaking into small groups to discuss topics ranging from classes to take, to dating, to drugs and alcohol.
Both maintain and enforce a “no judgment” atmosphere in and out of the meetings. “Some of the kids who don’t drink think of themselves as better people because they don’t, and they kind of get this cocky sense,” Berry said. “I want to stay away from that.”
The true reward for Berry and Garrett was not just seeing the need, but supplying support. “We aren’t here to try to change the whole entire school,” Garrett said. “If it changes one person’s mind, then that is all we care about. We are here to help.”