Whether they hope to one day become a United States Navy SEAL or simply want to do their best in school, the Assyrian American Civic Club Youth Group now knows one thing: substance abuse will keep them from achieving their goals. Jason, a U.S. Navy Seal and speaker for Applied Performance Sciences, educated the group Sunday on the physiological effects of poor lifestyle choices and the specific ways in which these choices directly impact their ability to perform on the sports field, on the stage, in the classroom and, ultimately, in life.
“We don’t just say to the kids, ‘Don’t do these things, they’re bad,’” said Jason (who did not give a last name). “We say to them, ‘Here’s what’s happening to you. Do whatever you want, but here’s the information you need to know before you make these choices. Here’s what’s happening to your brain and your hormone levels when you’re doing these things, and here’s how that translates in your ability to perform either athletically, academically or at whatever it is you care about doing.’”
The seminar came as a collaboration between AACC, APS, the Assyrian Wellness Collaborative and the Stanislaus County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services and focused on human performance and how it is affected by substance abuse. The AWC raises awareness for behavioral and emotional health, said AWC Chair Carmen Morad.
“We focus on prevention and early intervention when it comes to drugs and alcohol,” said Morad. “This event is for our youth and for the adults as well to be educated on such an important matter.”
Jason met with the AACC Youth Group prior to the presentation and heard from the group some of the issues that Turlock youth face on a daily basis, including alcohol, tobacco – specifically, hookah and vaping – and marijuana.
“The unfortunate thing that we see as we travel around is that wherever we go, every place has its own nuances and things they’re dealing with but the themes are basically the same: younger and younger kids doing dangerous and more dangerous things,” said Jason.
According to Jason, the average age that youth begin drinking is now 11. Even more shockingly, in his travels with APS Jason has encountered 14-year-old children who are addicted to crystal meth. While the circumstances may not be as extreme in Turlock, Jason stressed the importance of getting the message of prevention out to children as early as possible.
“We’ve been focusing a lot on the high school age because it’s important to get the message to them now,” said Jason. “High school aged kids are kind of in the sweet spot. Hopefully, we’re still getting to them early enough to where they haven’t developed really bad habits, but they’re also able to follow a little bit more sophisticated science.”
In his presentation, Jason focused on lifestyle choices and how they affect the human body. Discipline, commitment and individual responsibility were some of his key talking points and he also emphasized the significance of leadership when it comes to youth making not only good choices for themselves, but for those around them as well.