[Noozhawk’s note: This article is part of Day 4 in Noozhawk’s 12-day, six-week special investigative series, Prescription for Abuse. Related links are below.]
“It’s a teen-run news show, by teens for teens,” said 17-year-old Billy Spencer, a San Marcos High School senior who explained that sbTNN features things to do in Santa Barbara, like community service and activities that teenagers can participate in.
“Basically it’s a teen scene magazine,” added Trisha Geyer, associate director and chief financial officer at the Patricia Henley Foundation, the nonprofit organization that created and sponsors sbTNN.
Now in its third season, sbTNN aims to provide “accessible and community-based performing arts programs, dedicated to developing passion, communication and performing arts leadership in the youth of (Santa Barbara),” the organization says on its Web site. Through donations from local businesses and individuals, sbTNN produces weekly television shows that are broadcast on the Santa Barbara Channels public-access TV station and through Noozhawk, the group’s media sponsor.
Since June, sbTNN has been working with Noozhawk to create public service announcements for Prescription for Abuse, Noozhawk’s six-week investigative series on the misuse and abuse of prescription medications in Santa Barbara County. The PSA videos, which feature many of the sources Noozhawk reporters interviewed for the series, are being posted alongside the articles.
Hailey Sestak, a 17-year-old Santa Barbara High School senior, said sbTNN has produced 28 public service announcements for Prescription for Abuse, which Noozhawk began publishing Sept. 12.
Through interviews with community members and research, the teens working on the public service announcements have learned a lot about prescription medication use locally.
“We interviewed doctors and recovering addicts,” said Spencer, adding that much of what they learned involved prevention and how to get help for addictions.
But many of the people interviewed talked about prescription drug use among teenagers, said Kristen Cool, Geyer’s assistant at the Patricia Henley Foundation.
People tend to think that drinking is the largest problem that high school and middle school students face, said Sestak.
“(Prescription drugs is) an underlying issue,” she said.
Ashley Almada, a 15-year-old sophomore at Dos Pueblos High School, said she felt that the people they interviewed talked to them because of their close connection to youth.
“We’re living (with those who misuse prescription drugs) and can help guide them,” she said.
Sestak found that everyone she interviewed was enthusiastic about the project.
“Everyone was really caring and just wanted to help,” said Sestak, adding that they weren’t mad or blaming their patients for their addictions.
After each interview, the teens felt they had learned a lot. In Cool’s case, she couldn’t stop sharing the information and knowledge she had gained when she got home from an interview. She was so interested in the new things she had learned that she talked about it to those around her frequently, she said.
The teens were given the opportunity to do the public service announcements through Garrett Geyer, a Noozhawk intern who also works with sbTNN and is Geyer’s son. From there, the sbTNN crew started interviewing and researching prescription drug use and putting together their series of public service announcements.
Bill Macfadyen, Noozhawk’s founder and publisher, said he and his team were excited to work with sbTNN for a number of reasons.
“Drug abuse is rampant among teenagers, and we’ve focused a large part of our series on their parents, who account for much of Noozhawk’s readership,” he said. “When we had the idea to include videos as part of our project, we figured if sources were sitting across from a teenager, subconsciously they would respond in ways that would better connect with youth. We hope their messages resonate.
“We’re also privileged to sponsor sbTNN and thought the scope of this opportunity would really push the kids out of their comfort zone, and let them experience the career and entrepreneurial aspects of what they’re doing. I’m really proud of them for how they met the challenge. Their work is very professional.”
The teenagers involved in the project felt compelled to report on what they found in their own research on prescription drugs.
“I love reporting on things that benefit the community,” said Sestak.
With the sources she interviewed for the Prescription for Abuse project, she said she would see “their passion (for helping others with addictions) and feel an obligation to tell the story right.”
Spencer said he wanted to help to tell the stories of those interviewed in an effort to prevent others from developing addictions to prescription medications. “Especially with our age group,” he added.
“We see our friends doing these things, and it’s cool to be on the other side of the issue and know there are other ways to avoid growing addictions and misusing drugs,” Sestak said.