As part of an Oct. 19 Example event, Lutheran North students watched a Families Against Narcotics video featuring young men and women who never thought they would be heroin addicts.

As part of an Oct. 19 Example event, Lutheran North students watched a Families Against Narcotics video featuring young men and women who never thought they would be heroin addicts.

Photo provided by John Brandt


Macomb Lutheran North group promotes drug- and alcohol-free experience

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published October 30, 2019

 Example founder and Lutheran North teacher John Brandt believes the vaping epidemic is difficult to battle because there are so many fronts that need to be exposed and destroyed.

Example founder and Lutheran North teacher John Brandt believes the vaping epidemic is difficult to battle because there are so many fronts that need to be exposed and destroyed.

Photo by Alex Szwarc

Advertisement

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — It’s a clear message — students can enjoy the high school experience without partaking in alcohol and drugs.

Example, a student group at Macomb Lutheran North formed in 2010, is based on 1 Timothy 4:12, which encourages believers to set an example in speech, life, love, faith and purity.

The group gathered Oct. 19 for “SHOCKtober.” Students dressed up in Halloween costumes, took part in a festive relay race involving doughnuts tied to a string, and later watched a Families Against Narcotics video featuring young men and women who never thought they would be heroin addicts and what lead to that.

“We have 550 students and while they go to North, they’re typical teenage kids,” Example founder and North teacher John Brandt said. “They have the same pressures, which is one of the reasons we have Example.”

He said there have been instances of students being suspended and expelled due to vaping with THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, or because they’re underage.

On Oct. 15, a state judge granted a preliminary injunction to vape shop owners who opposed Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s flavored vaping ban, halting the state from enforcing emergency rules banning the sale of the products.

The state’s rules, meant to discourage youth from vaping, went into effect Oct. 1.

Brandt believes there’s been an uptick in the number of students disciplined when it comes to vaping.

“It’s so prevalent and so easy to hide,” he said. “When you look at commercials or news reports on vaping, the pictures they use are these cool, billowing puffs of smoke. If you want to put a damper on it, don’t make it look so cool.”

In early September, Whitmer announced a ban on flavored vaping products in Michigan, following reports of a marked increase in youth usage and an uptick in presumed vaping-related illnesses.

“This epidemic is so difficult to battle because there are so many fronts that need to be exposed and destroyed,” Brandt said.

What Brandt was looking to accomplish when Example was formed is that on a Monday morning, students heard voices other than the party crowd.

“I wanted to make sure they heard the message that drugs and alcohol aren’t an inevitable part of the high school experience,” he said. “Telling them that and showing them that is the difficult part.”

Example gets together once a month for fun activities, as well as an educational aspect, whether it be a guest speaker or a video.

“Being in Example gives us a safety net where we can see other students who aren’t doing drugs and alcohol,” Example member Rachel Guiles, a senior, said.

Fellow member Cooper Carlin, a junior, said he knows of more students vaping outside of school.

Both agreed that vaping is prevalent at school, adding they see students vaping on campus and also posting about it on social media.

“Being in Example gives us the tools to be able to resist drugs and alcohol,” Carlin said. “If others are doing that, we’re able to tell them why it’s not right and that not everyone does that.”   

Carlin added that his message to friends who vape is, “You don’t know what it’s going to do to you and it’s not that cool.”

Within Example, the spotlight isn’t necessarily focused on vaping alone, but also drug and alcohol usage and the associated dangers.

Brandt hopes through Example, students will recognize that plenty of their peers aren’t engaging in drugs and alcohol.

“I want them to realize there are people their age that aren’t vaping. I want them to see they’re not on an island,” he said.

Brandt pointed out that even if students are vaping without THC, it’s still illegal.

His concern is that he can only do so much, and when it comes to education, whether it’s about vaping or not, there has to be a partnership with parents.

“If it becomes a dropping ground where they say, ‘Let the school take care of it,’ we’ll lose that every time,” he said.

When asked why he thinks there’s currently a large push to curb youth vaping, opposed to recent efforts to legalize marijuana, and where society draws the line, Brandt said it’s driven from ignorance.

“(Vaping is) not deemed as dangerous. Now you have all these studies looking at what it does to the lungs, even if it’s not THC,” Brandt said.

Around 60 students consistently attend Example events.

Advertisement