Durham-Middlefield Youth Keep Their Focus

EDGE (Excellent Decision Guiding Everyday) is a student club at both Strong Middle School and Coginchaug Regional High School. It also the Youth Subcommittee of the Durham and Middlefield Local Wellness Coalition both operating under Durham Middlefield Youth and Family Services.  EDGE Students meet during the school year to put on events within school and in the community encouraging peers to make healthy decisions.  Activities include: Safe Dates Program, Role Models Program, Safe Sober Prom, Kick-Butts Day (Tobacco), Red Ribbon Week, Drug Facts Week, Sticker Attack, and more.

In partnership with Miranda Creative Marketing Consultants, a core group of EDGE members developed 4 peer-to-peer and 1 peer-to-adult marijuana awareness messages. When developing the content for this campaign the students felt there needed to be an important and educational message about the harmful effects of marijuana. Many students stated that they were bombarded with social media advertisements favorable to the consumption of marijuana related products. They felt strongly that they were not being well informed on all of the negative or harmful effects of marijuana. Miranda Creative listened to their concerns and helped developed graphics to make their message stand out amongst their peers and throughout the community.

Keep Your Focus

The team developed a “Keep Your Focus” tagline that is featured on all of the products and social media posts used in the campaign. The initial launch of the campaign was with two very large vinyl banners in high traffic areas at the high school. During National Prevention Week both the middle and high school continued to roll out the campaign by putting up magnets on all of the lockers with the “Keep Your Focus” tag line and handle to the Instagram account. They also distributed stress balls, participated in lunch activities, read drug facts for announcements, hosted an all school assembly, and put window clings in the classrooms at the high school.

EDGE students feel social media is a great platform to promote this campaign, above the influence messages, and other positive images to combat ads favorable to substance use and other risky behaviors. The students will also be creating a snap chat filter with the tag line “Keep Your Focus”.

We asked Haley Shoop, the advisor to EDGE and coordinator of the DMLWC, to give some insights to youth groups interested in creating their own marketing campaign:

What was the #1 key to the success of this project?

We would not have been able to successfully launch this campaign without the full understanding and support from our school district. Both our regional middle and high school has been exceptional in allowing us all avenues to launch this campaign.

What barriers or challenges did EDGE face?

EDGE members have said many have been Snapchatting and voicing their opinions both positively and negatively about the two large banners up at the high school.  The coalition has shared with the students that we are still making an impact by starting the conversation and creating a buzz around this issue.

The peer to adult (community message) has been slower moving than the peer-to-peer campaign. We have purchased window clings with the community message and the plan is for EDGE members to ask local businesses and organizations if they will display our cling in their window. The coalition feels confident in asking support from the community to stand united in their stance against youth marijuana use. We are also hoping to purchase a few more vinyl banners to display in our community’s libraries, town halls, driving academies, and other organizations.

What advice can you offer to other communities looking to do something similar?

This project was very much youth driven. I do not believe the campaign would have been successful if adult coalition members picked the message and design they liked and then told the kids to support and promote it. It was very interesting to see the project from start to finish and how well Miranda Creative worked with the students to make sure their voice was heard.

This was also a project we did not want to rush through. The students started planning in late December and we officially launched this campaign after the kids came back from April Vacation. There were many meetings, drafts, and decisions to be made before finalizing this campaign. The students are very proud of what they have accomplished and feel they have a voice amongst their peers and the communities. They do not want to see their friends make poor decisions, give into peer pressure, or make uninformed decisions. This campaign has also brought new momentum to the group and allowed them to feel like they are starting to make a difference.


If you have questions about the Keep Your Focus campaign and process, contact Haley Shoop and her students via email (hshoop.dmlwc@gmail.com). Be sure to follow the campaign on Instagram @dmlwc_edge