Traverse City Central High School senior Mitch Stachnik just won a statewide safety award for his contributions to a campaign he and fellow student STAND members worked on.
“STAND is Students Against Negative Decisions. They told us to come up with some ideas. We put up posters and gave out bracelets.”
The safety campaign encourages students to not vape, drink and drive or use drugs. Gen Z’ers, largely accepted as people born between 1996 and 2010, don’t struggle with tobacco use as much as their predecessor generations. However, they use nicotine e-cigarettes more than any other generation. Although they’re hailed as a way for cigarette smokers to have an option to transition away from smoking, over half of all Juul users were never cigarette smokers to begin with.
“It’s the big issue, at least with kids here. I mean, sometimes I can tell if I walk into a stall and it smells like watermelon. As a committee we decided that the anti-vaping, drinking, everything like that was the way we wanted to take the campaign,” Mitch said.
Although the campaign was inspired by vaping, the anti-drinking and driving aspect of it was what won Mitch the award.
The Governor’s Traffic Safety Advisory Commission’s (GTSAC) purpose is to address and help correct traffic safety issues across the state. Mitch received the 2019 Student Award from GTSAC.
“I was kind of surprised but it’s pretty cool. It really started around this time last year. We were just thinking of ideas for the next time we could make a change so we thought prom. Prom was when we made these ‘sober’ bracelets and passed those out at the dance with the hopes that kids would be at parties and it would remind them.”
Mitch’s involvement with STAND came from his involvement with the student senate.
“When I was in eighth grade I ran for a position in student senate. I ran for a freshman senator. Me and my best friend, his older brother was in the class and he would always tell us how fun it was. So both of us wanted to run. When I got a spot it was cool.”
The student senate is a designated class period where students work on putting together fun extracurricular activities for students.
“We have a business meeting every Tuesday where we talk about new business and events we’re doing around the school. Like, if it’s dodgeball or movie night or something. The whole class is about trying to make school more enjoyable for everyone. It’s for the people.”
Being in the student senate led Mitch into joining STAND.
“A lot of the other senators do it as well. We usually meet once every couple weeks. Last year was the first year we ever had it at this school. I joined, there was a big convention at Great Wolf Lodge, and that was my first introduction to the group. I just liked that it was promoting good habits and good decisions.”
While the student senate focuses on community fun, STAND focuses on community safety. The next contribution STAND is making to their campaign against vaping, drinking and drugs is making a presentation for middle school students that warns of the dangers of vaping. They’re also working on a video for their school broadcast.
“We’re making a safe driving video too. Jess Auger, throw that name out there, she’s in senate and also with the student tv. She knows how to do the camera stuff. I did a little bit of the acting. I drove my car down this road, my character was texting and driving. I haven’t seen the end but I think they’re editing in a jeep flying off a random cliff.”
STAND at Central may only be in its second year, but Mitch and his fellow committee members are off to an inspiring start with their dedication to safety, care and change.