MUSC and EVERFI show Wando students downsides of alcohol and vaping

May 14, 2024
A girl with dark hair wearing a blue and lavender dress has her arms out as she walks while wearing strange looking glasses.
Wando High student Izzabel Kritz wears a pair of goggles to simulate being drunk and tries to walk across the gymnasium floor. Photos by Sarah Pack

The high school freshmen joked and laughed as they waited in line in the Wando High School gym on a warm spring afternoon. They were about to attempt something that would prove more challenging than they might anticipate.

Dallas Dane, a tall student wearing a Vineyard Vines T-shirt, was among the first to try walking in a straight line while wearing alcohol simulation impairment glasses. With a little effort, he made it to the finish line. 

There, Quinton Irick, a system pharmacy technician manager from the Medical University of South Carolina, was ready to ask trivia questions and get Dallas to try to put together two pieces of metal. 

The Mount Pleasant ninth grader pulled it off. “It was a good simulation,” Dallas said after his turn.

The exercise was part of a training program run by MUSC and EVERFI from Blackbaud. Ann Collins King, relationship manager in the MUSC Office of Strategy and External Affairs, said the goal was to raise awareness among students about the effects of alcohol use and vaping. That’s important because alcohol is the most commonly used substance among young people in the United States, and more than 36% of high school students have vaped.

Two girls look at a person who is out of frame. A woman stands beside them. There is a Jenga tower on the table in front of them. 
Wando students JaLeza McBeth, left, and Almesha Smith talk with MUSC experts.

“We want you to make informed decisions when it comes to your health,” King told the students.

Those students went from table to table in the gym for activities designed to teach them about the effects of alcohol and vaping. They learned the legal blood alcohol concentration limit for anyone under 21 is zero, that alcohol is not a stimulant but a depressant and that just a single drink can affect a person’s driving ability.

They also got some unpleasant facts about what’s in vapes. For example, most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, the same thing that’s in regular cigarettes. They may also contain volatile organic compounds, flavorings that can be toxic and formaldehyde.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has even warned of the threat of ingesting fentanyl through vaping. So fentanyl was part of the discussion at Wando. 

An MUSC nurse manager asked ninth grader Drequan Malvert a trivia question. “True or false? Just 2 milligrams of fentanyl, equal to about 10 grains of salt, is a normal daily dose.”

Drequan was unsure.

“False. That’s considered a lethal dose and even less could kill you,” the nurse manager told him.

A large sign titled nutrition facts lists health risks, nicotine addiction, substance abuse potential and unknown long-term effects. It lists ingredients as nicotine, toluene, vitamin E acetate, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin and diacetyl. 
Left to right: Nurse manager Eileen Sandlin and pharmacy techs Daniel Simmons and Cassandra Whaley talk to students at Wando High School about the hazards of vaping.

That information stuck with the student. “It was fun. It was kind of interesting,” he said later. “About 2 milligrams is about 10 grains of salt.”

That small amount could have a big impact. And the fact that students were retaining the information was just the effect that Chelsea Nelson of EVERFI was hoping for. 

“This is a good combination of topics that are really important with this age group especially. I think the kids are getting a lot out of the vaping one. So many kids are vaping these days. They either are, or they know somebody that is. So having this kind of in their face is good because we’re not here to lecture them and shame them. But we want them to know what they’re dealing with,” Nelson said.

That knowledge is possible through a collaboration between MUSC and EVERFI announced last summer with plans to offer education programs to K-12 students in multiple South Carolina counties. Some of the classes are virtual. Others, such as the alcohol and vaping training at Wando, are in person.

King said it’s part of a larger effort. “Our role is to achieve MUSC’s mission through collaborative partnerships and helping communities in South Carolina through different innovative initiatives. One of those initiatives is partnering with EVERFI. This is so important, and we’re grateful for the chance to work with students early so maybe they’ll make better decisions through high school and beyond.”

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