A collaboration between Stafford Technical Center and Rutland Pharmacy has resulted in the creation of three anti-drug video public service announcements to be aired by WCAX and PEG-TV.
The PSAs include one created by Andrew Martell, 17, of Fair Haven Union High School. In the video, the character played by Martell is tempted to use opioids but ultimately ends up “turning away and putting them down,” he explained.
“I came up with this idea because I know a few friends that had been bullied a lot of their lives and had a lot of mental problems. They turned to opioids because they thought they would be like (anti-depressant) drugs. A good fix, right? Well, obviously, that’s not the answer, and that’s the message I wanted to convey,” said Martell whose PSA won third prize.
At a Project VISION meeting on Thursday, Emily Marchinkowski, an administrative assistant at the pharmacy, said the business had a grant from the Vermont Department of Health that could be used to respond to the problem of opioid abuse.
This year, the third year of the grant, the Rutland Pharmacy staff decided to sponsor a community campaign with 30-second video PSAs created by Stafford students and posters designed by Castleton University students.
“Those students had absolute free rein to do whatever inspired them,” Marchinkowski said.
Jamie Bentley, co-chair of the VISION health committee, said she and the members all had a chance to watch the videos the students had “developed, created, directed and starred in” to choose their three favorites.
Marchinkowski said more than 40 community members viewed and rated the videos to decide which three would be submitted to WCAX and PEG.
Marchinkowski pointed out that the students who created the three videos chosen will receive more than credit.
“I wanted to mention that the Stafford program was really wonderful. There’s a production fee for these videos and they forwarded the fees to the students so not only are these three winning students getting a lot of press and recognition and being able to see their work live on TV, they also receive some cash prizes. So that was really cool,” she said.
Cristina Kumka, who has been instructor of video communications at Stafford for six years, said by email Thursday she was concerned about whether her students were prepared to handle such a serious topic as the safe use of prescription opioids.
“I questioned whether the students had the drive to get it done, as many were dealing with social isolation issues, family issues and overall pandemic fatigue. The back and forth inconsistency of education during the pandemic put many of them in a rough spot mentally. But they pulled through and my class of 16 students submitted a total of 10 opioid PSAs,” she said.
Kumka told those at the VISION meeting that while she didn’t know what to expect from the 2020-21 school year, her students had won 25 cash prizes and first, second or third place in statewide contests.
She said the most impressive thing she had seen though was Martell appearing at Project VISION by video wearing a suit. He pointed out that he was wearing pajama bottoms
Martell said he was really excited when he learned his video would be aired on television.
“I was like, great, now other people will see this message. I’m just hoping it will speak to some people and possibly change lives. That would be amazing,” he said.
Austin Gallagher, 18, from West Rutland High School, won first place and Corrigan Hanna, 17, from Rutland High School won second place.
Marchinkowski said the videos will be posted on the Rutland Pharmacy website and Facebook page.