HESSTON, Kan. (KSNW) — “Just Say No” has been a slogan used to teach kids about drugs since the 1980s.

One nonprofit is changing the conversation in Kansas with science-based research, helping teens stay away from negative influences.

“The culture of fitting in now is terrible,” said Hudson Ferralez, a Hesston High School junior.

“You know it’s trying to do drugs and trying to do other stuff. You know it’s not good for your body. It’s not good for you.”

Ferralez knows firsthand what it’s like to be faced with a decision.

“At my old town, I went and visited some old friends. They asked me, ‘hey, do you want to try this and do this?'” Ferralez said. “Me, I’ve always been told it’s wrong.”

His approach, “stand for the right thing,” said Ferralez. Holding firm in his beliefs.

“You really say no just because that’s what you’ve always been told, but now it’s like, I really want to push a positive environment,” Ferralez said.

The program uses prevention science in a fun environment to give teens skills, opportunities and recognition.

“It’s really fun to see both in data and just qualitative data,” said Benjamin Meier, prevention program director with Mirror, Inc., the nonprofit hosting the STAND program.

“We had a teacher actually in Hesston a couple years ago approach us and say I don’t know what you guys are doing but keep going because it’s working,” Meier said.

STAND, in its current format, has been at Hesston High since 2017-2018.

In the Kansas Communities that Care, which surveys middle and high school students, data shows a decline in alcohol, marijuana and prescription drug misuse since 2018.

“We’re not just making positive decisions and staying away from drugs and alcohol,” said Benjamin Meier, the prevention program director at Mirror, Inc.

“We’re motivating kids to care about things around them and motivate kids to care about their communities.”

Ferralez says he knows choices now will impact his future.

“You know, as little kids, you hear that from adults a lot, and you just kind of ignore it, but it’s so much more important, that phrase, because this stuff does have a big impact on you,” said Ferralez. “I would say stay away because you don’t see the risk until it’s too late.”

There are several policy changes STAND students have been involved with.

According to Meier, Newton STAND students were at the forefront of the Tabacco 21 legislation brought to the City Commission.

In Hesston, Meier says STAND students went to all 10 parks, picking up cigarette butts, and brought them to community leaders. This helped get a tobacco-free ordinance passed for the parks.

Students can still apply to be part of STAND at their school

Three ways to support:

  • Help Fund stand programs
  • Bring stand to your community
  • Support youth around you

People can reach out for more information at info@mirrorinc.org