“I Am Dirt”Show Replaces Usual FCD Workshops

During last week’s Freedom from Chemical Dependency (FCD) seminars, students experienced a slightly different format than the one from previous years. Instead of the usual workshops, returning Lowers, Uppers, and Seniors were required to attend a performance of “I Am Dirt,” a one-man show by John Morello, a former drug user. FCD week, founded twenty years ago by former Associate Dean of Students and Psychological Counselor ’Cilla Bonney-Smith, has consisted in the past of workshops conducted by teachers and former drug addicts to give students more facts about drug and alcohol use so that they can make better decisions. “The goal [of FCD week] is to teach kids about the consequences and effects of drug and alcohol abuse without being preachy,” said Head Faculty Advisor of Andover’s Drug and Alcohol Abuse Committee (ADAAC) Henry Wilmer. “[The format was changed] partly because it is the first year without the irreplaceable Cilla,” said Mr. Wilmer. “We [the ADAAC faculty advisors] saw the show and were so impressed that we thought ‘Wow. It would be great if everyone could see this.” In the show, Mr. Morello, an actor and stand-up comedian, discusses the effects of drug abuse on family and friends. He wrote the show after his brother became addicted to heroin and died from an overdose. The show was presented as a way to educate students about the consequences of substance abuse. Using the show also made sense for the school financially. Mr. Wilmer said, “We wanted to get the most bang for our buck, so rather than risk low sign-up numbers we made attendance mandatory [for all returning students]. It was such a good presentation educationally, and made sense financially, and also made the administrative organization of FCD week much less complicated.” Co-Head of ADAAC Daniel Wagman ’06 said, “Mr. Wilmer came to us in the beginning of the year, raving about this one man show that he saw.  So as a board, we all decided to try it out, thinking that he would encompass many important points.  Even though we had to cut a lot of the usual workshops that we provide because of the huge demand for his show, ‘I Am Dirt’ turned out even better than we could have imagined.  Every person that I have spoken to has said that he not only grabbed their attention by being funny, but his powerful message got across and left a lasting impression.” Due to the apparent success of the program, there is talk about continuing this format for a different class each year. In past years, the content of the available workshops has changed every year, depending on hot topics and interest. Mr. Wilmer said, “The format of FCD week is currently in evolution. It’s too early to tell about the impact of the show, but it seemed to have kids continuing conversation after the performance. [Head of School] Mrs.Chase noticed that kids were talking about it at dinner, and I’ve had coaches and teachers tell me they heard students talking about the show the weekend after they saw it. If people are still talking about it, it at least had some impact.” Mr. Wilmer said that the importance of FCD week is making people think about the consequencesof their actions. He said, “Kids will make choices, and we think that the more information they have the better choices they can make, if not now, then in the future. The results [of this kind of education] may not be immediate but [hopefully] will lead to intelligent decision making. What we don’t want is students participating in substance abuse or illegal activity. To say that FCD week is slanted towards non-use, would be inaccurate and unrealistic, but it aims to advocate considered use.”