How the vape epidemic is dealt with at AHS

It’s been three years since Aspen High School began a non-traditional initiative to address student abuse of drugs and alcohol. Students frequently caught with vapes, alcohol, or other substances now must attend an after-school class that reinforces laws that address high school students in possession of illegal substances. Students take one of three courses that are all derived from one. The three courses that the school offers are: the drug and alcohol prevention course, the vaping course, and YouthZone, which is a restorative course aimed at helping kids understand the fundamentals of substance abuse and it’s many consequences.

The classes are aimed to target students who are in danger of causing harm to themselves through substances or harm to the people around them. The school is working with the Aspen Police Department to try to help the kids who are placed into the system. The courses are after school on Wednesdays and run for about an hour to an hour and a half. The whole course spans eight weeks.

AHS Vice Principal Sarah Strassburger has spearheaded this approach and has been deferring suspensions a student may get in hopes of having the school help the students rather than push aside their issues.

“The Wednesday after school program is part of a bigger continuum of support of both intervention and prevention,” Strassburger said, “You can be referred to us due to an infraction or just out of concern, and then it’s kind of voluntary.”

Kenny Hamburg, who works with YouthZone, has helped put together the restorative course, called Seeking Safety, and he hopes that it can teach kids drug and alcohol laws, while also showing them alternatives that they can use in their everyday lives.

“I teach the class, sometimes Huff drops by and helps out,” Hamburg said, “We just want to make sure that kids know the laws around this type of stuff and that they know that they have choices and other coping mechanisms.”

The triple course approach is new this year but has been used in other schools for years, wielding amazing results, according to Hamburg. Kids who are participating in the class are just a fraction of kids who need to put placed in it, but Hamburg hopes that the effects will help better the school community as a whole.

“The goal is to think about healthy alternatives,” Strassburger said, ”How is it impacting your school? Your social life? Your extracurriculars? The goal is to shed light on how substance use can have a negative impact on your life.”


The class was unavailable for a photograph due to privacy reasons.