In March 2023, Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows Basak Ünübol (Turkey), Jean Michel Iyamuremye (Rwanda), and Che Neba (Cameroon) volunteered in the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Community Service and Health Education group to organize and conduct an event for National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week® (NDAFW). All three fellows had previously worked in the health sector and conducted studies in areas related to public health, such as addiction and infectious diseases, and therefore were excited to become involved in the event.
VCU had previously participated in NDAFW activities. For this event, the three fellows connected with Mazhar K. Anik, associate dean at the School of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, Virginia, to plan the event together with students at the college. “As VCU Humphrey fellows, we aim to shatter the myths about drugs and alcohol that young people are often exposed to from friends, social media, and movies,” Dr. Ünübol explained.
With guidance from VCU Humphrey Fellowship Program staff Dr. Wendy Kliewer, Dr. Robert Balster, Ms. Heather Ashton, and Dr. Randy Koch, the three fellows planned the event in detail, created an invitation and a poster, and delivered it to students online. During the event, which was attended by a large number of high school students, Dr. Ünübol gave a PowerPoint presentation on addiction and its biological basis. Mr. Iyamuremye had the students play a Kahoot! quiz game with questions about various types of addiction. The competition created high engagement and excitement among the students, and winners of the quiz were rewarded with various prizes. Finally, Mr. Neba helped dispel various myths about drugs by providing accurate information. To round out the event, the fellows had invited Tom Bannard and Dziko Singleton from VCU, who are in recovery from a substance use disorder and gave interactive presentations. Dr. Ünübol summed up the experience: “Providing science-based information to students so they could make healthy choices was an unforgettable moment. It was incredible that we had the opportunity to provide such an event to students.”