More than 70 Watertown High School students have pledged to be drug and alcohol free, and in return they will be part of a new group at the school which has special events and they will get discounts at local businesses.
The kickoff meeting Raiders Against Drugs Society, or RADS, took place in late May with an assembly lead by student leaders at Watertown High School. The students discussed the goal of RADS, and the benefits – including discounts at stores, meetings with raffles and door prizes, special trips and more.
To be a part of RADS, students must sign a pledge saying they will be alcohol and drug free. At the end of the school-wide assembly, the organizers asked for a show of hands of people who would take the pledge and join RADS.
“Close to 80 students signed up on the first day,” said Donna Ruseckas, the Watertown Public School’s director of Wellness & Extended Services. And that doesn’t take into account the incoming freshmen.”
The students who sign up will be able to attend meetings which will have activities and give aways, Ruseckas said. Even though the school year is almost over, there will be one RADS event.
“As a celebration kickoff we will have a cookout,” Ruseckas said.
Next year, there will be monthly meetings, said Watertown Police Lt. Dan Unsworth, who helped come up with the idea for RADS.
“We will keep them fun,” Unsworth said. “As incentives to attend we will have sports tickets, gift cards to raffle off.”
One of the main benefits of joining the group is the RADS ID card students will receive which will give them discounts to local businesses, Ruseckas said.
“Businesses will get stickers they can put up and students will know ‘they have a discount for us because we are RADS,'” Ruseckas said. “They can get an ice cream, get a slice of pizza.”
There are consequences for failing to meet the pledge. If a student in RADS is convicted of alcohol or illegal drug possession or use, or receives a school penalty for alcohol or illegal drug possession or use, they will be removed from RADS. Also, if they do not attend enough meetings they can lose their membership.
Those who are removed from RADS can reapply to get back in, Ruseckas said.
While there are incentives to join, RADS is aimed to be an anti-drug and anti-drinking effort. It grew out of the WATERtown (Watertown Access to Treatment, Education, and Resources)
Task Force on Substance Use, which started two years ago with the growing use of opioids in town.
“I really like the student centered approach and focusing on the positive,” Rusekas said. “Our mission as a Task Force is to erase the stigma (of substance abuse) and the kids also want to be involved with it.”
Unsworth was inspired by a program in Waltham in the 1990s that had a similar goal of keeping kids away from alcohol and drugs.
“It was called YOU – Youth Opposed to Using,” Unsworth said. “It ran for 10 to 12 years and had 600 kids. It had the right administrator at the high school who got it running.”
When Unsworth wanted to pitch the idea in Watertown he brought the Waltham administrator, Steve Goodwin, to meet with then-Watertown Superintendent Jean Fitzgerald. She liked it not only as a program for high schoolers, but also at Watertown Middle School, Unsworth said.
RADS has not started at the Middle School yet, but should get underway next school year, Ruseckas said. While students drive much of what goes on with the WHS program, adults will help middle schoolers with the planning of meetings and events.
As of the beginning of June, these businesses that have signed up to be part of RADS:
- Francis Food Mart
- Linday’s Donuts
- Lily’s Cafe & Bakery
- Graphic Connections
- Inner Strength Yoga
- A Barber Shop
- Central Rock Gym
- Dunkin’ Donuts
- Boston Boxing
- Joe’s Variety
- Pizza Roma
- Eastern Clothing
- Celebrity Pizza
- Mimi’s Roast Beef
- D&D Pizza & Subs
- Andrea’s Pizza
- Wild Willy’s
- Yum Bunnies
- The Arsenal Project