Name: Megan Po...
From: Staten Island, NY
School: Tottenville High School
Heroin Island to Hopeful Island to Hopeful World!
all began on a normal Tuesday morning. The roar of the school’s
telephone filled the trigonometry room and interrupted my thoughts,
as students around me attempted to solve a polynomial. The class
“ooh-ed” as the teacher explained that I was needed in the
principal’s office immediately. In a school of four thousand
students, one is only summoned to the office of Principal Scarmato in
extreme cases… and this situation definitely qualified as extreme.
am known as the girl who accomplishes anything that she puts her mind
to. For instance, March of 2018, I tackled a new challenge: Staten
Island, New York, my home. I know Staten Island for the ferry, the
Statue of Liberty, the culture and the love; however, many know it as
“Heroin Island.” National Geographic even devoted an episode
entitled, “Heroin Island, NYC” to expose a vulnerable aspect of
the beautiful place that I call home.
began work toward my Gold Award by dedicating it to every Staten
Islander who died from a drug overdose in 2018 and vowed to lower
that number in not only my city, but also my nation. I was laughed at
by many. How could a seventeen year old girl possibly change her
community, nonetheless the nation or the world?
project, entitled “From Heroin Island to Hopeful Island,” focused
on educating myself, students and adults about substance abuse, and
helping those in drug related crises. Firstly, I was certified in
Mental Health First Aid and administering naloxone. I then became a
volunteer for the Foundation for a Drug Free World and donated
educational resources to rehabilitation clinics. My project resulted
in an article being published in the Advance, which was shared over
one thousand times.
that fateful Tuesday, I sprinted down the stairs, hall pass shaking
in my hand. I walked into Principal Scarmato’s office, greeted by a
smile and handshake from the man, himself. I smiled back, curious as
to why I was called to his office so suddenly. He had me take a seat
and the next words out of his mouth astonished me. “I received a
call from the District Attorney. He read the article about your work
to stop the opioid epidemic and would like to meet with you
with the District Attorney and receiving a Certificate of Recognition
for outstanding leadership, contribution to the fight against the
opioid epidemic and support for those struggling from addiction was a
once in a lifetime experience. Furthermore, there has been a forty
four percent drop in borough drug overdoses since my project was
initiated, and that is what provided me with utter joy. After
receiving my Gold Award, I continued to work towards this cause by
collaborating with Congressman Max Rose, who actually sent me the
Congressional Record of a proceeding where he recognized my work in
front of the Speaker of the House and his fellow Congressmen.
is a powerful word that has a different definition to everyone. In my
experience with addiction, fear is the core reason why people do not
get help: fear of breaking up a family, not affording rehabilitation,
especially being judged and secluded by society. I
knew that I had to educate others to remove the negative connotation
associated with addiction. The best place to start is with the
younger generations. Many parents are afraid to discuss drug abuse
with their children, fearing that they will give them bad ideas.
However, knowledge is power and when presented in a proper manner
drug education will change not only the lives of the children, but
also eliminate the negative connotation about drug abuse in Staten
Island and worldwide. I created a PowerPoint to educate the younger
generations about the difference between good and bad drugs as well
as how to “say no”.
pursuing my Gold Award, I also had the opportunity to meet with a
Staten Islander addicted to Heroin. After experiencing much pain and
loss as a result of addiction, he attended rehabilitation. He
expressed gratitude to me for spreading awareness and changing the
negative connotation associated with addicts. However, it was I who
was grateful. It was not the Gold Award, or the meeting with the
District Attorney, or the amount of shares my Advance article
received that made me proud to have dedicated over one hundred hours
to this cause. It was the knowledge that I had made a change in one’s
life, community and world that made it all worth it.