Social Justice Day Examines Local Impact of Modern Drugs

Fifth Annual Event Raises Awareness for Social Issues By Sherbie Carson

If there is truth to the old adage ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’ at what point is the community absolved of the responsibility to educate its youth? At high school graduation? At a later age? In an attempt to teach both teenagers and adults about the local impact of modern drugs, the College of Southern Maryland hosted its 5th annual Social Justice Day at the Prince Frederick Campus on April 10 and 11.

Social Justice Day is “a cross-disciplinary approach, initiated by the college, to raise awareness for social issues of significant importance to the community,” said Professor Nicholas Valltos, program coordinator for criminal justice at CSM. It allows students the opportunity to gain information about key topics, “in a non-threatening environment,” he said.

During a CSM Cause Theatre production entitled “The Empty Chair,” written by Tim Kelly, eight CSM student actors portrayed the struggle of recently sober teenaged drug addicts grieving the loss of a member of their Narcotics Anonymous support group, as a result of a drug overdose.

Many of the faculty and audience members were deeply moved by the performance. “The transparency of the actors is really what made it truly authentic,” said adjunct faculty member Tonya Jackson. “It was so raw. Powerful.”

Candice D’Agostino, Calvert Alliance Against Substance Abuse (CAASA) coordinator, echoed Jackson’s sentiments and invited the Cause Theatre cast to share its message with the community through future programs sponsored by the CAASA.

Graphic pictures and statistics concerning the physical, social and societal effects of drug use on the human body presented by Dr. George Spiegel, CSM associate professor of biological and physical sciences, revealed both short- and long-term consequences suffered by users and their families.

Side-by-side time-lapsed photos of drug users revealed the anorexia, extreme tooth decay and self-inflicted body sores that commonly result from long-term methamphetamine use.

“You’ll never worry about lipstick on your teeth again,” quoted Spiegel from an ad contributed by the   

Additionally, students from the speech and debate club participated in a debate concerning the legalization of marijuana, in the state of Maryland, for both medicinal and recreational use.

Social Justice Day program coordinators Denise Gilmer-Knudson, Lisa Lynk Smith and Valltos worked in conjunction with local law enforcement, paramedics, Calvert County State’s Attorney Laura Martin, CSM Counselor Ann Penick and the CAASA to present the day.

Sherbie Carson is a CSM student enrolled in CSM Assistant Professor Michelle Brosco Christian’s “Introduction to Media Writing” course.