Connections-The Whole Story

Connections-The Whole Story

Students were able to put on gloves and touch and compare healthy organs versus those impacted by different drugs.

Jayna Otonicar, a Social Work Intern at New Start High School submitted an Excel grant application last fall because “staff at New Start High School wanted to bring Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Colleen Williams, from Connections Mobile Mental Health, to New Start High School to provide “Connections-The Whole Story” health education program for their students.

“Connections-The Whole Story” uses real human body organs, some healthy and some damaged from substance abuse, to educate young people about the human body and the harmful effects of different substances. It is a hands-on, interactive presentation where students can put on non-latex, nitrile gloves and literally feel, see and discuss how drugs and alcohol impact our bodies. In addition, “The Whole Story” integrates a brain-body approach to other important aspects of health including nutrition, physical activity, and mental and social health.   “Connections-The Whole Story” does not tell youth not to do drugs as that tactic has been scientifically proven to be ineffective. Instead, the program provides young adults with the education and information necessary for making informed decisions about drug use.”

Our students are choosing to come to New Start and want to graduate. New Start Staff would like to empower them to make healthier choices that will help them succeed in and out of the classroom.

And the program was a success! In her final report, Jayna said: “because of the Excel Grant from the Foundation we were able to bring in guest speaker, Dr. Colleen Williams of Connections Mobile Mental Health, to speak to our students about the consequences of drug and alcohol use on our bodies. Dr. Williams brought in real human body organs to show our students the physical impact of substance abuse. Students were able to put on gloves and touch and compare healthy organs versus those impacted by different drugs. Students were also encouraged to ask questions and engage in discussion around health and positive life choices. This program reached all students who were present that day.

Students at New Start are greatly impacted by drugs and alcohol and are at risk of future addiction. Many of them come from families who use and abuse various substances, and a significant number of our students already use drugs and alcohol themselves. In fact, we lost a student this year to a car accident where alcohol was involved. This grant allowed us to bring in a professional who could show students the concrete impact of their choices on their bodies across the lifespan, and gave them space to ask questions and talk about their concerns. I think this project made a significant impact on our students. It was amazing to see the level of engagement and involvement of our students during the presentations and to hear the ongoing discussions the students were having throughout the day regarding what they had learned.”

Connections-The Whole Story

Connections-The Whole Story is a hands-on, interactive presentation where students can put on non-latex, nitrile gloves and literally feel, see and discuss how drugs and alcohol impact our bodies.

Here is what one student had to say: “This presentation that Dr. Colleen Williams presented to our school New Start was definitely an eye opener. Everything went really well a lot of student showed up to the presentation and they actually took some information in, as I was listening to some of them talk, I heard them say that everything they heard that day all the effects and what it does to our body they will think about it before “turning up” again, some of them actually just said they were done with drugs. We hear a lot of the effects but don’t really listen much, but actually seeing the organs and how much damage alcohol and drugs have done its amazing and not only that but we know their stories because Dr. Colleen told us the stories while showing us their organs. I’m glad I got to be a part of a great experience, this is something I am going to remember and take with me and definitely will let others know about this information.” – A senior at New Start High School


We love hearing these stories and sharing them you. How can you help? Please consider making a donation today to help fund next year’s Excel Grants. We welcome all levels of donation, whether it’s a one-time gift or a monthly donation. Questions? Please contact us at – [email protected] or call 206-248-5196.

Since 1999, the Highline Schools Foundation has been supporting innovation and excellence in Highline Public Schools. Our funding priorities focus on programs to improve academic achievement, supporting college and career readiness, grants to teachers for engaging classroom projects, the arts, athletics, and programs that keep students in school and productive. Highline is a district full of need and opportunity. The Highline Schools Foundation is the only non-profit organization dedicated to all schools in our district—our goal is to help as many students as possible be successful!

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