Taking The Meth Message Teen To Teen

Bryson Cayaban is the Kaua‘i representative on the Hawai‘i Meth Project Teen Advisory Council. Coco Zickos photo

Waimea High senior Bryson Cayaban, Kaua’i representative to the Hawai’i Meth Project Teen Advisory Project, believes in preventive action

Not even once. That’s the message Bryson Cayaban makes clear to his peers about using the highly addictive drug methamphetamine.

“I felt that I can make more of a difference in my community,” says the Waimea High School senior who voluntarily serves as a Kaua’i representative on the Hawai’i Meth Project Teen Advisory Council. “Being part of this teen advisory council actually opens me up, and I could share my version of aloha and spread the awareness and my concerns to everyone on our island.

“By influencing them teenager-to-teenager, from kid-to-kid, it’s better than an adult to a kid because they can get the relation between one another,” the ‘Ele’ele resident adds.

Middle school students are the primary focus. “Because that’s where it all starts,” says Cayaban. “Their morals are being tested at that age.”

He recalls one story told by a guest speaker at last year’s teen advisory council community gathering on Oahu. The storyteller’s morals were tested at a very young age.

“She had just one toke at age 15 and got so addicted,” he says. “She lost all her friends and family and took advantage of her best friend. She threatened her best friend to give her money so she could buy more of the addictive drug.”

Cayaban was amazed by this story.

“It really shocked me,” he says.

He felt there had to be more stories and was determined to return to the island to advocate for an end to these sad tales. By visiting schools and attending events such as the Kaua’i County Farm Bureau Fair, he joins other high school students from around the island to perpetuate a meth-free lifestyle.

“We basically want to inform students that they can get involved, and it’s a really big issue in our entire state,” he says.

Hawai‘i Meth Project’s young volunteers helping out at the Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau Fair (from left) Mae Ortega, Bryson Cayaban, Keenan Tomacder, Jordan Balbin, Robin Matutina, Creesha Layaoen and John Medeiros. Photo courtesy Aimee Imai

According to statistics, Hawai’i is the third-highest state in the country as far as meth-related treatment admissions are concerned, and is fourth in the nation for meth-related drug offenses. Use of the stimulant increased 87 percent among 10th-graders from 2005 to 2007.

Meth can ruin the physical and mental states of an individual and affect them the rest of their lives. It can destroy their appearance, personal hygiene and mood, among many other things.

“That’s why we felt there was a need to have an organization like this to make our entire state aware of it,” says Cayaban, “and to inform the youths of our island that it’s bad, and we need to stop and take a stand against it.”

The Hawai’i Meth Project is a statewide organization aimed at reducing the use of the synthetic substance.

“I’m really proud of our organization,” says Cayaban.

In observation of National Meth Awareness Day Nov. 30, the organization’s teen advisory council will have an anti-meth sign-waving at Kapa’a High School with Kaua’i members Cayaban, Mae Ortega and Jordan Balbin.

Other events planned for the year include a beach bonfire and gathering teens together to rally against the use of meth. Cayaban hopes to document the event on film for later use during presentations at schools.

“I want to give the message out to everyone that no matter what age you are, you can make a difference, small or big. It’s possible,” he says.

When Cayaban isn’t busy planning activities or recruiting new volunteers for the organization, he is involved with the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) as well as his school’s student council. He also is in the process of applying to college next year. He would like to attend school in California and major in law and public policy with a minor in political science or business management. More than likely, he will return to Hawai’i to continue making a difference, possibly as a politician.

“But anything can happen, and I’m the type of person who, any opportunities that come at me, I’m willing to go for it,” he says. “I’m leaving my door open, never closing it.”

For now, Cayaban continues to campaign against meth.

“We can take a stand and stop meth for good,” he says.

The Hawai’i Meth Project is currently sponsoring a statewide art contest. The “Take a Stand Against Meth” competition asks teens to design a piece of artwork that relates to content on the organization’s website. For more information, visit methproject.org/action/hawaii.