6 Student Stories on Change-Makers in Their Communities

Multimedia stories on local solutionaries from our YES! Solutions Pilot Project.

In late fall 2019, nine schools were selected to pilot the YES! Solutions Project. The project shifts students from problem-awareness to thinking about solutions as they identify and interview change-makers in their communities.

We have six stories in a variety of media—from print essay to podcast to comic book zine. Our hope is that they will inspire your students to recognize positive actions in their communities—and this nation—and ask, “What can I do?”

I appreciate the students and teachers who took the risk and participated in this pilot project while grappling with distance learning. To you and your students, thank you Cassidy Carlotto (Mount Anthony Union Middle School), Taylor Dietz (Salish School of Spokane), Abby Franks (Morey Flextech High School), Keith Lewison (Cape Cod Academy), Lindsey McGann (Arcadia University), Gheni Platenburg and Nan Fairley (Auburn University), Kristen Re, Eli Rosenberg (Main Street Middle School), and Don Simmons (California State University-Fresno).


Drug Addiction Powerfully Affects Cape Cod Residents: This is How Amanda McGerigie is Helping to End This Epidemic (Abbie Catalano, essay)

Cuffed in the Statehouse: How One Vermont Student Stood Up for Climate Action (Sarah Greene, Meg Voisin, podcast)

Miles for Change (Grace Acosta, Addy Hubbard, Alexis Lambert, Eva Schofield, comic book zine)

Northwest Auburn Housing: Solutions for Keeping Neighborhoods Rooted and Strong (Hannah Werner, Natalia Salvatore, video)

Combating Climate with Joy (Danielle Anton, Anna Maphis, Hazel Merluza, Elena Schatell, podcast)

8 Ways to Preserve Beloved Northwest Auburn (Melanie Hughes and Elizabeth Hurley, story map)

Drug Addiction Powerfully Affects Cape Cod Residents: This is How Amanda McGerigie is Helping to End This Epidemic

By Abbie Catalano

For over three decades, Duffy Health Center in Hyannis, Massachusetts, has provided health care and support to people experiencing homeless or at risk of homelessness. Since 2006, the center has led the the Cape Cod area in evidence-based opioid treatment services.

In the last decade, drug addiction has become a more life-threatening crisis for residents and families in Cape Cod. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH), there were 445 opioid-related overdose deaths in Barnstable County from 2010 to 2018. The epidemic is especially disturbing in the town of Yarmouth. Yarmouth suffered an increase of drug-related deaths—the opposite of the state trend.

Since 2006, the Duffy Health Center has been leading Cape Cod in evidence-based opioid treatment services. Amanda McGerigle MSW, LICSW, is an embedded therapist for the Duffy Health Center’s Medication Assisted Treatment Program.With the opioid epidemic destroying the lives of our young community, we are in desperate need of a solutionary, and this is where Amanda comes in.

Abbie: What are some of the reasons people become addicted to drugs?

Amanda: I see some people who legitimately were given a prescription for pain medicine because they came from the dentist, and then what happens is they develop a chemical dependency where their body wants it all the time, and then you get psychologically dependent as well. There is another sort of group of people who either had some trauma, or something happened along the way in their lives where they felt like they weren’t good enough, and for whatever reason the drug makes them feel complete.

Abbie:  What kinds of treatment does the Duffy Center offer?

Amanda: We offer a treatment called Suboxone, and that comes in different doses, and it’s a film that goes under your tongue, we also offer a Vivitrol shot, and that’s every 30 days. We also offer something called Naltrexone, which is a pill, which helps block the receptor that makes you want to drink. Suboxone is the most common one, and it helps dull two of the receptors instead of just one, and it stops the cravings. We like for people to have some sort of behavioral health component, whether it’s individual therapy or group therapy.

Abbie: How were you inspired to work in this field?

Amanda: I know that a community is really as strong as it’s young workforce, and I’m watching this epidemic wipe out people that are my age and younger, so what inspired me was to be able to give back to the community.

Abbie: Have you ever made a difference in someone’s life that you will never forget?

Amanda: Just recently, I had someone call me from a local establishment, they had been drinking for a very long time, and they were feeling suicidal, and I called the police… and three weeks later after they had been to treatment, they came back and said “Thank you for saving my life.”

Abbie: What would you say to the people who think drug addiction is not a disease?

Amanda: I often say to people who don’t like it when I use the term disease that it is a chronic relapsing brain disorder. Once you put the chemical in your body, you lose the power of choice, because your brain and body start making the choice for you, all they want is the drug.

The Duffy Health Center’s unique approach to recovery from opioid addiction should be modeled across the country. At the Duffy Center, patients can receive medications, healthcare, and therapy to discover the roots of their drug addiction under the same roof. Amanda told me “I love working for the Duffy Center because people come in here with nothing, and they leave with something, whether it’s insurance or hope.” This is a powerful statement because Amanda has the ability to transform someone’s life.

I chose the topic of drug addiction because I wanted to learn about one of the most deadly problems that is affecting the younger generations of Cape Cod. Amanda McGerigle is a solutionary who goes to work every day and saves lives. She taught me what it means to give back to the community. Her hope and belief that every patient will recover is inspiring.

Abbie Catalano is an eighth-grader at Cape Cod Academy, in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Abbie is a competitive dancer with Dance Designs Company and loves to spend time sailing and boating with her family and friends. She is interested in pursuing a career in medicine.

Cuffed in the Statehouse: How One Vermont Student Stood for Climate Action

A podcast by Sarah Greene and Meg Voisin

Markus Spiske from Unsplash. Image for Cuffed in the Statehouse podcast by Sarah Greene and Meg Voisin.

Montpelier High School sophomore Carmen Richardson-Skinder says that Vermont state officials have known about the impact of fossil fuels for decades yet have not substantially reduced carbon emissions. The Vermont Youth Lobby member isn’t afraid to take direct action, including civil obedience, when legislators don’t listen to facts.

Sarah Greene is an eighth-grader at Main Street Middle School from Montpelier, Vermont. Sarah loves to longboard, and she plays soccer and basketball. In her free time, she likes to listen to music and hang out with her friends.

Meg Voisin is an eighth-grader at Main Street Middle School in Montpelier Vermont. Meg enjoys outdoor activities, including mountain biking, playing soccer with friends, cross country skiing, and any fun adventures with friends and family. She also loves trying new spicy foods.

Miles for Change

A comic zine by Grace Acosta, Addy Hubbard, Alexis Lambert, and Eva Schoefield.

Through a partnership with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, kids in the juvenile justice system can join MileUp to have their restitution paid and their criminal record cleared. MileUp is not just about running. It’s also about having a mentor to support kids through a difficult stage in life.

Click here to read the comic book zine Miles for Change

Grace Acosta is pursuing a dual master’s degree in public health and medical science at Arcadia University. Grace is passionate about public health issues, especially as they relate to social justice. She hopes to use her career as a medical provider to address public health issues in medically underserved areas and also raise awareness for health inequities.

Addy Hubbard is pursuing a master’s degree in public health and medical science as a physician assistant at Arcadia University. Addy is interested in addressing upstream issues in healthcare as a clinician and empowering youth to make healthy decisions.

Alexis Lambert is a graduate student at Arcadia University, graduating with a Master of Public Health. Alexis hopes to use her education to help rebuild the infrastructure of public health to better serve population-level health needs following the COVID-19 pandemic. Outside of class and work, she is planning her wedding.

Eva Schofield is pursuing a dual master’s degree program in public health and medical science at Arcadia University to become a physician assistant. Eva is interested in preventative healthcare, particularly to promote healthy environments, lifestyles, and decision making within communities.

Northwest Auburn Housing: Solutions to Keep Neighborhoods Rooted and Strong

A video by Hannah Werner and Natalie Salvatore

Residents of Northwest Auburn are concerned that they will be displaced from their homes as they see student housing and other signs of gentrification moving closer to their neighborhood. One way that city of Auburn Community Services director Al Davis wants to preserve Northwest Auburn is by improving the existing housing inventory.

Hannah Werner is a recent graduate from Auburn University, where she majored in public relations and psychology. Hannah is originally from Lincolnshire, Illinois where she now resides with her family and dog.

Combating Climate Change with Joy

A podcast by Danielle Anton, Anna Maphis, Hazel Merluza, and Elena Schatel

Gus Ruballo from Unsplash. Image for Combating Climate Change with Joy podcast by Danielle Anton, Anna Maphis, Hazel Merluza, and Elena Schatel.

Joy Bergey was 15 years old on the first Earth Day. Her civics teacher took the class to protest at the dirty local power plant, and Joy was horrified at what she saw. Today, she volunteers for Ready for 100, an effort to get elected officials to commit to 100% clean electricity by 2035.

Danielle Anton is a graduate student at Arcadia University, pursuing a dual Master’s degree in Public Health and Medical Sciences. Danielle aspires to become a dedicated physician assistant, specializing in dermatology. She enjoys spending what little free time she has outdoors or curled up with a good book. 

Anna Maphis is pursuing her Master’s in Public Health and her doctorate in physical therapy at Arcadia University. Upon finishing her graduate degrees, Anna plans to work as a physical therapist specializing in geriatric care. She hopes to one day settle down in the mountains of Eastern Tennessee and surround herself with furry friends.

Hazel Merluza is a graduate student at Arcadia University, pursuing a dual Master’s in Public Health and Medical Sciences. Hazel hopes to become a compassionate physician assistant specializing in nephrology. She spends what little free time she has sewing, specifically up-cycling clothing. 

Elena Schatell is a student in Arcadia University’s Dual Master of Public Health/Master of Medical Science in Physician Assistant Program. Elena aspires to work as a public health physician assistant in underserved communities.  She is passionate about advocating for world peace, environmental justice, spending time outdoors, and letting loose in dance class.

8 Ways to Preserve Beloved Northwest Auburn

A story map by Melanie Hughes and Elizabeth Hurley

Like many historically Black communities across the nation, Northwest Auburn, a neighborhood beside Auburn University, Alabama’s second-largest public university, has been subject to gentrification, erasure, and diminution. Community members have several preservation efforts underway to make sure their beloved community is respected and remembered.

Click here to explore Northwest Auburn’s preservation efforts

Melanie Hughes is an Atlanta native and recent graduate of Auburn University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in Journalism. Melanie believes deeply in the power of every person’s story and desires to uplift valuable voices with authenticity, creativity, and empathy. You will likely find her outdoors with a cup of coffee in one hand and a camera in the other.

Elizabeth Hurley is a recent graduate of Auburn University with degrees in journalism and political science. Elizabeth is working toward her masters in public administration and hopes to use her education to work in local and state-level government to better government transparency initiatives.

Inspiration in Your Inbox

Get the free daily newsletter from YES! Magazine:
Stories of people creating a better world to inspire you and your students.

Sign Up