Once more, Connection Lab helped youth from the Allston-Brighton Substance Abuse Task Force Youth Coalition create a striking symbol from the national Above the Influence campaign. This year, the campaign’s arrow inside a circle are made of wood, and on the wood are painted quotes and stories from community members about challenging situations they’ve encountered and ways that they’ve managed to overcome their obstacles. Borrowing a methodology from the “Own your Peace/Piece” project in Needham, MA, youth coalition members collected stories through surveys, interviews and workshops that they facilitated with younger youth. They then made the process their own. Some of the stories were written onto the image by younger youth themselves and others were written by the peer leaders. The outer purple ring contains both obstacles and ways to overcome them, and the central arrow contains many stories of success.
We hope that the coping mechanisms, personal stories and direct quotes will help people who see the art understand that they are not alone in experiencing difficult situations, and that they might be inspired to try a new approach to overcoming their own challenges.
While the connection to substance abuse prevention may seem distant, coping skills and resilience are protective factors for a number of risky behaviors, and a lack of connection to other community members can be a risk factor. We believe that the image will be detailed and interesting enough to encourage people to approach it and look at it carefully. As they do, we hope that they will learn from the stories that came from their friends and neighbors, enhancing their sense of connection and building their arsenal of coping skills.