‘Thank you for the offer, but I’m not interested’
Summit High School senior Chase Byers talks about why saying “no” to alcohol and marijuana is keeping him on the path to a successful future
By Lauren Glendenning
Brought to you by the Healthy Futures Initiative
Chase Byers is proof that teenagers who choose not to use alcohol or drugs not only have active and fulfilling social lives, but also extremely bright futures.
Byers is a senior at Summit High School who’s part of the International Baccalaureate program. Under the program, he’ll obtain an extra diploma if he passes his upcoming international exams.
“I approach all of my education internationally because you never know where you’re going to end up,” says Byers, 17. “Since I was little, I have always wanted to be successful. It took a long time to determine how ‘successful’ is defined. To me, it’s about being happy but also about having the resources to provide for others.”
With this in mind, he figured he might as well take the hardest possible classes throughout school, and he also knew that staying away from alcohol and drugs would be essential to his future success.
Not a part of growing up
Some teens might think of drugs and alcohol as a part of growing up, but Byers says that’s not the case. He recognizes that decisions about alcohol and drugs — and especially about marijuana for teens in Colorado — are a part of growing up, but teens aren’t forced to make the wrong decisions.
When he’s been around peers who offer him alcohol or marijuana, Byers politely says “thank you for the offer, but I’m not interested.” He says people often respond graciously and move on.
“Maybe it’s just my friend group, but I think if it turned into peer pressure, I think it really puts the responsibility back on you to say you’re not interested,” he says. “And if that doesn’t work, just leave the situation and move on. If you’re in a situation that makes you uncomfortable, I just advise to get out of there.”
It’s hard to face these situations without having a plan in place for how to react. Byers thinks that many peers who end up trying marijuana or alcohol do it in the moment, because they don’t know how to say no when put on the spot.
“Take the time for yourself to think about whether this is something you want to do,” he says. “And if it is, what are the consequences? How will you look at this in the future? You have to really take yourself out of the situation and slow down.”
Without alcohol or drugs in his life, he has the time and energy to focus on what matters. He’s president of the French Honor Society, a member of the National Honor Society, and participates in Interact, a Rotary organization, and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Outside of school, he’s on the junior executive art panel at Breck Create, and he takes ballet and hip-hop classes at the Alpine Dance Academy.
“When you engage in the use of marijuana or alcohol, you’re adding another activity to your plate,” he says. “I’ve seen peers stop doing things they’re really good at (because of alcohol or drugs) — it’s sad.”
Trusting relationships with adults and peers are a powerful tool for teens that want to make the right choices. Byers says relationships with people you trust and admire are more important than worrying about what peers at school are thinking.
Communities can benefit from more casual education that teaches teens and younger children how to talk to their friends and to adult mentors about these subjects, he says. When parents or adults talk to teens about these subjects, they should do it spontaneously and naturally, he says.
“A preachy or angry tone blocks that personal connection that can maybe pull that person out of a situation,” he says. “Making it spontaneous helps a lot. It takes away that awkwardness when it just comes up naturally in conversation.”
When adults help teens understand that these decisions can have dramatic, lasting effects, everyone stands to benefit.
“Parties are fantasized and are not the basis of your social life. They are not essential to your high school experience and can always wait,” Byers says. “If you do not know what decision to make, talk to your parents or siblings or someone you are close to who you would trust with your life.”
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