Op/Ed: A Darien High senior contemplates the “evolution of a t-shirt”

In eighth grade, I desperately wanted a light blue tee shirt with 06820 written across the front. I had seen so many kids wearing them around town and saw the pride in their eyes as they went into Vavala’s or the Darien Sport Shop.

So when three Youth Asset Team members came into my eighth grade classroom answering our questions and giving away shirts, I knew I had to have one. I joined the Youth Asset Team after graduating from Middlesex Middle School just when the first 06820 campaign came out. Little did I know that these t-shirts would play such a fundamental part of my high school career.

The facts of this campaign were horrifying. I stared in awe as I realized what a problem Darien had. The seemingly perfect community that I grew up in had a flaw, and everyone was shocked. The striving and struggling mentality was being brought to light. The hard conversation started in every household, for the first time, it felt like a change was going to be made.

The terrifying pictures were outside every local business, on social media pages, and in mailboxes. I learned quickly that I did not want to be a part of the scary statistics. Yet, everybody continued to wear the blue tee shirts.

That same year, Chris Herren came to Darien High School. I remember sitting in the second row of the auditorium and looking around as he shared his story. Everybody was in tears. Freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors; it didn’t matter. His story of overcoming alcoholism inspired every single person in that auditorium because everybody has had an experience with those same feelings of loneliness and sorrow.

However, Chris Herren overcame his struggles and shared his story of falling down and then picking himself back up. I realized that I could translate his words into my own life. Coming in third place at a track meet did not mean I was a failure. It just meant I had more to work for and in the next race, I would need to continue stepping up. Chris Herren never gave up and he proved to us that we should not either.

My sophomore year, the word had spread and the conversations had already begun. Now, the focus was on the harmful effects of alcohol on the teen brain. While I often think I had a medical school degree thanks to my Grey’s Anatomy knowledge, it was these horrifying facts that grounded me. “The magnitude of the brain difference [between the binge drinkers and the non-drinkers] measured at about 10%. Basically the difference between an A and a B.” (Dr. Tappert). This statistic really freaked me out. I have always been an overachiever and the thought of ruining all of my hard work made me turn away.

My junior year focused on relationships and being a better influence. The campaign featured a photo of a makeup table that included a Juul and hard alcohol. We focused on the image we have and how we are perceived by others.

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Reeve’s top 10 take-aways

1. Be true to yourself; you will never find happiness trying to please others

2. Do not compare yourself to others; you are on your own path

3. Focus on what brings you joy

4. Social media glamorizes everyone’s lives

5. Surround yourself with great people who encourage you to be better

6. Be open to new ideas

7. Don’t be afraid to show your voice

8. Get involved at school

9. Put down your phone; the best moments are captured when living in the present moment

10. Serve others and be compassionate

I have a younger sister who is 13 and I have realized how my decisions influence her. I would never want her to have a bad example and this responsibility has motivated me to be better.

As I enter my senior year, I am anxious to see what I learn. This is my last year before I head to college and I realize how important it will be. This fourth campaign will draw a line between students’ coping with loss, discomfort and anxiety with alcohol and the dangers of self-medicating. “Don’t solve it with a drink” is so relevant to daily life and especially now in COVID times.

The Community Fund has helped me learn so much in these past three years and I can not thank them enough.

Reeve Boeckmann is a senior at Darien High School.

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