Impact Norwood’s #WeAreTheNorm Campaign Focuses on the Positive
By Liz Hughes
The town’s youth-led Impact Norwood has launched a social norms campaign aimed at correcting misconceptions about youth and substance abuse. The campaign, #WeAreTheNorm, launched April 1, is to educate community members about the true behaviors of youth in town.
Impact Norwood’s Program Director Aubrey Ciol said one of the things the coalition does is collect data and look at it to see where they are seeing a problem as far as youth substance use and what’s putting them at risk. The social norms campaign is one of their strategies for combating that problem where instead of focusing on the risky behavior youth are engaging in, they flip it.
“We talk about what the actual norm is,” Ciol said. “The actual norm is that the majority of youth in Norwood are not engaging in substance use. By focusing on that we’re letting youth know ‘hey your peers aren’t doing this as much as you think they are.’ Especially with the way youth are portrayed in media, TV shows, movies with big party scenes. That’s not the majority of youths. And it’s not only in Norwood but across the state. We want to do something positive to focus on the positive in the community instead of focus on the negative.”
The #WeAreTheNorm campaign will use public service announcements, billboards, and more to educate the public on the healthy and positive decisions Norwood Youth are making. For example, according to the most recent MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey, 85% of youth in town do not consume alcohol.
The Impact Norwood Substance Prevention Coalition was formed in 2014 with Chief William Brooks and Health Department Director Sigalle Reiss to help reduce risk in the community. In 2017, they applied for the Drug Free Communities Grant aimed at youth substance prevention. The coalition was awarded that grant for $1.25 million later that year. The money went toward hiring a full-time director and a part-time coordinator.
The youth arm of the coalition was developed in 2018.
“We call them our youth ambassadors because this work is about them and they need to be involved,” Ciol said.
The youth ambassadors are students in grades six through 12 who want to help raise awareness and knowledge around health and substance. The program helps them build leadership skills while making real change in their community.
The youth module of the coalition has designed the graphics in a video PSA released last month, and the script was written by the coalition’s middle school youth ambassadors. In it they read statistics and talk about what they are actually doing.
“Some do resin art and are starting their own Esty business,” Ciol said. “Some just hang out and watch Netflix and talk to family and friends.”
Planning for the #WeAreTheNorm campaign took place over the past year and involved just under 20 youth ambassadors in grades six through 12.
A Youth Quote Wall can be found online at www.impactnorwood.org/youth-quote-wall. Youth throughout town are encouraged to submit quotes for the page. The group also plans to host events as part of the campaign at some point.
All youth in town are encouraged to get involved.
“We are asking any youth in Norwood to let us know what they do in their spare time,” Ciol said. “What do they do for fun hobbies when not in school.”
Adults can also get involved with volunteering with impact Norwood, especially when the coalition can start hosting events again. which Ciol hopes will be in the next year.
Most of all, Ciol wants residents to keep an open mind.
“When you see youth, try to stop yourself from thinking ‘what are they up to, they’re probably up to no good,’’’ Ciol said. “They’re just kids. Don’t be so quick to judge them, they’re good people.”