HARLEM — When students at Harlem Village Academy sat down to watch Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Public Service Announcement on the dangers of K2 last Fall, they were not impressed.
“People weren’t really paying attention, that was the main reaction,” said freshman Fatoumata Conde. “It was more of an assembly and we had to be there so they were stuck watching whether they wanted to or not.”
After watching the PSA, she and several other students thought they could do a better job of reaching the youth.
So with the help of S.A.F.E. in Harlem, a nonprofit that keeps teens off drugs, they made their own PSA.
The organization wanted young people to take a leading role in addressing Harlem’s synthetic drug problem. They created five groups of teens, gave them equipment and let them produce their own PSAs.
“We wanted to acknowledge that Harlem has been deemed ground zero, especially East Harlem,” said Felecia Pullen from S.A.F.E. in Harlem. “Our kids have stepped up to the plate to talk about the implications of K2. Many of them walk by the retail outlets that have been known to sell the substance.”
The teen PSAs feature students buying K2 in the hallway and having seizures during class, or buying synthetic drugs at Marcus Garvey Park and getting in trouble with their parents or the police.
After online voting, two of the groups were picked to go to Washington D.C. to participate in a youth leadership conference earlier this month and meet politicians who represent New York.
Conde’s group was one of the two selected.
“We got to speak with Sen. Charles Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand’s aides,” she said. “It was really cool because I’ve never seen that. It’s cool to see what our lawmakers do and listening to them made it realistic that we could actually enact change in our community.”
They also met with Rep. Charles Rangel.
All five of the PSAs are available to watch at S.A.F.E. in Harlem’s website.