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Bellingham Bulletin

BHS Students Present Vivid Opioid Warning Video

Jun 28, 2019 06:00AM ● By Amy Bartelloni
Class Marshal Brandon Murphy and graduate Katherine Ehwa

story & photo by Amy Bartelloni, Contributing Writer

The nation’s opioid problem is something that’s not going away, and it’s on the radar of SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) advisor Melissa Newman.

The issue is one she began thinking about over a year ago, when she was approached by Francis Cartier of Cartier Funeral Home. They discussed the yearly mock crash put on by the high school to warn students of the dangers of drinking and driving, but they also wanted to address the growing problem of opioid addiction. It took her six months to put together the idea of a film, and she immediately came up with two perfect people to help put her thoughts on the screen.

The two students who took the lead were BHS junior Brandon Murphy and senior Katherine Ehwa, who did the filming and edited the film.

“They did a fantastic job, and I’m very proud of them and grateful to them,” Newman said.

The video is an approximately 8-minute snapshot of the life of a high school athlete. It comes to an emotional climax when the student chooses drug use, and subsequent scenes play out in an ambulance and funeral home before circling back to better choices. These scenes weren’t easy for the students who participated and Brandon’s parents, who play a role in the film.

“The raw emotions and the tears that trickled down my parents’ faces reflected the true pain that they endured in the filming of this video,” Brandon said in a statement to the School Committee, who viewed the video during their May 13th meeting. 

Brandon told the School Committee that his reason for agreeing to be a part of the video was to help anyone who was struggling with opioids.

He was influenced by a SADD conference that he attended at Gillette Stadium, where they listened to a high school athlete who had become addicted to heroin. The experience resulted in an overdose and serious brain damage, and he now lives his life in a wheelchair with little brain function, requiring round-the-clock assistance from his mother.

“The story spoke so much volume to me because it’s not just the ‘druggies’ or ‘bad kids’ or the one who just seems sad all the time who fall victim to this,” Brandon told the School Committee members. “It’s the kids who are the most athletic, the most intelligent, the most involved, the most popular who are able to have the darkest demons. Sadly, we live in a world where just about everyone has been forced to deal with some kind of relationship to this brutal epidemic.”

After the film was screened, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. “That was amazing,” School Committee Chairman Mike Reed said, praising the positive message at the end and how realistic the film was, calling it beautifully done, powerful, overwhelming, well-done, and timely.

 He congratulated everyone involved, thanking Mrs. Newman for her commitment to guide the students through this issue. “I’m so impressed by your commitment to this issue,” he said to Brandon, “such an important topic, so timely, and so well done.” 

Superintendent Peter Marano praised everyone involved as well, beginning with Mrs. Newman. “Since I started here 20 years ago, your dedication and willingness to talk about topics not many people do amazes me,” he told her. “Year after year, the work you guys do with our students is unbelievable.”

He went on to call Brandon a courageous young man, challenging everyone to think about whether or how something like this has touched their own lives. “I think what you’ve done is absolutely tremendous. I’m so proud of this video,” he said, adding that he’s seen it three times and has the chills each time.  “Keep doing this work,” he added; “this is important stuff.”

Newman told the School Committee that the video was shown three times in school. “I was amazed because I’ve never seen an 8th-grade class come together, and you could have heard a pin drop,” she said, mentioning that it sparked discussions in classes, and some kids came forward to talk to their teachers about things they were going through at home. “In that respect, that’s why we did it,” she said.

Bellingham’s SADD chapter is one of five in the country nominated for the Shining Star Chapter of the Year award, for everything they’ve done this year. “I’m just so proud of them,” Newman said of everyone who was involved, including the kids that showed up at the church and assisted in the filming, Brandon’s parents (Peter and Cindy Murphy), the Bellingham Fire and Police departments, Pastor and Mrs. Randy Lewis of Blackstone Valley Baptist Church, and the school administration.

“We’ve always gotten such great support from the community,” Newman finished. “Because it’s such a horrible epidemic, if we can make a difference in anyone’s life, that was our main purpose.”

The video can be found online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iP2zhgxGaIA&feature=youtu.be, and more information about SADD can be found at https://sadd.org.

 

 

 


 

 

 

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