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Meet Kiersten Hewitt of FCD Prevention Works in Newton

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kiersten Hewitt.

Kiersten, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
In 1976, Don Cutler, a Harvard-educated Boston businessman, along with several of his friends, launched a pioneering Massachusetts school-based approach to substance abuse prevention. Freedom from Chemical Dependency, as it was called then, employed persons in recovery to share their experience and knowledge with young people in schools across America. Since that time, we have maintained an unwavering focus on bringing the most up-to-date, researched-based substance abuse prevention programming to schools around the globe. To date, FCD Prevention Works, now part of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation has worked with well over 2,000,000 students in over 1,000 schools in 69 countries on 5 continents, in addition to schools located in 38 of the 50 United States.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The issue of substance abuse prevention is complex, but FCD Prevention Works has never shied from the challenge. When we began our journey over 40 years ago, substance abuse prevention education was not a commonly discussed topic.

However, we soon realized that by immersing ourselves in school communities and creating opportunities for dialogue around what historically has been a provocative topic, teens are actually very interested in discussing this subject. We have also found that most adults within a school community are eager to learn how to approach the topic with their children. The impact of these open and ongoing discussions is powerful, and it is also measurable. Through findings from our FCD Student Attitudes and Behavior Survey, a 50-question instrument designed to measure students’ actual attitudes and behavior with regard to alcohol and other drugs, as well as their perceptions of the behavior and attitudes of their schoolmates, we are able to show that rates of substance use in adolescent populations decline over time when school communities build a sustained prevention program involving all of the stakeholders within their community.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with FCD Prevention Works – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
In addition to our expanding global footprint in the realm of school-based substance abuse prevention programming, FCD is increasingly recognized as a thought leader in prevention education. Our rich and innovative programming has shifted the paradigm in talking with young people about their health as it relates to decisions and perceptions regarding substances. Research shows that when adolescents and the adults who care for them have access to education and dialogue around prevention education and topics, they are more likely to make healthier decisions, and for a longer period of time.

FCD’s mission is and will always be to educate young people about the risks and realities of alcohol, tobacco/nicotine and other drug use. The programs we offer today are more integrated, comprehensive and effective than ever before, and our programming approaches are as varied as the communities we serve. With over four decades of experience behind us, we have become adept at identifying the unique needs of each client school as we work with them to build an effective prevention plan for their community.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
FCD Prevention Works looks forward to continued service to schools and communities around the globe, with an unrelenting focus on the elements of prevention we know to be effective. Through data we have collected, and continue to collect, from the FCD Student Attitudes and Behavior Survey, we can clearly see the impact that prevention programming has upon a school community. This data is used to inform and guide school decision-makers in designing a prevention plan that best meets the needs of their particular students. As we enter into our fifth decade of service, FCD programming is ever more research-rooted and data-driven.

We plan to expand our data collection beyond student attitudes and behaviors, and are working towards the development of faculty and parent surveys, pre and post surveys to measure the efficacy of prevention programming communities, and other tools to illuminate the impact that prevention education has on the adolescents we serve. Continued growth and program innovation are vital aspects of FCD’s past success and future effectiveness, and we are committed to sharing our continually developing knowledge and experience with schools around the globe as they work to support the health of their students.

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