Today – Grasso Tech students hold a recovery festival to show people that help is available

Groton – Ella T. lonliness.

“There are a lot of people stuck in this addiction pandemic, and we want to show them that there is help,” said Lea Lowpoint, 16, a junior at Grasso Tech.

Members of the School’s Student Recovery Club, which works to reduce the stigma of addiction and provide support, organized the first Friday afternoon recovery festival at Poquonnock Plains Park to gather resources and the opportunity to share stories about addiction or mental health issues and recovery. Students said the community is talking, and Groton Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention and Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery, or CCAR, provided support in putting together the event.

It’s OK to reach out. It’s OK to get help,” said Calvin Ponch, 16, who’s young. “You are not alone in this world.”

Samantha Holly, 17, junior said the club’s students are all happy to do something with intent and know they’re making a change.

Music is played as people visit booths to learn about recovery organizations and resources. Narcan to reverse opioid overdoses was available, as well as drug storage boxes and disposal bags. Then people gathered together to listen to the sermons that people shared about recovery.

Mayor Juan Melendez Jr described the students as “very inspiring” and thanked all agencies. He also said he was a huge inspiration for the work of Dave Ogden, a teacher-leader at the Student Club for Recovery.

Ogden quoted poetry from his father who was a writer and believed that people heal with words and share stories. Ogden said his hope for the event was to share stories so people could learn from each other and the common threads of love, loss, and other things that all people have in common. He said when people start acknowledging these things, that’s when we start to recover and be able to look at things from a different perspective.

Ogden shared his own story about his son’s death in a car accident. Each Grasso faculty member attended his son’s funeral and allowed him the time and space he needed.

He said the loss was hard, and his doctors put him on benzodiazepines for two years to get him to sleep at night. One day when he ran out of medication, he decided to quit cold turkey. After a few days, he started having small fits and ended up in the hospital for several days.

Ogden, a school counselor at Grasso Tech, previously shared his story with Grasso Tech students at a senior summit, along with other speakers, and the students said his story inspired them. Last fall, he was speaking with students and talking about their desire to have a voice, which helped create the Student Group for Recovery. He said school counselor Robert Bosco has been instrumental in providing support to the group, along with TJ Aitken, CCAR’s Director of Youth and Family Services.

Mike Ball, a recovering person who has been vigil since March 1984, shared the story of his recovery and how he helped others recover. “I know recovery is possible,” he said. “This is really important.”

Jim Dolan, who teaches at Grasso Tech and previously worked on several residential drug abuse programs and young adult services, told the crowd that the students deserved a round of applause.

“I have taken the lead, especially at a time when this need for addiction services and personal empathy has become so evident in the age of COVID, a time when societal stress and a lack of community support has soured the resolve of so many people with addiction.”

Caroline Wilson, coordinator of the Groton Coalition to Prevent Substance Abuse, said in an interview that she is very proud of the students for organizing this event. “They were excited and stood up and got it done,” she said.

Tammy De La Cruz, Head of Community Speaks Out, said it was great to see the event organized by the students and told the students they were inspiring. She said she hopes other schools will see what Grasso Tech has done to advance and how these students are a voice for young people, and then follow suit.

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