As part of joining Richmond Vale Academy (RVA) every student agrees to what we call 'The Frames'. This is the policy in which we agree to have no drugs and no alcohol as part of what we do here at the school. There are several reason for this from simple things such as reducing work ethic to having negative impact on the community. 

For me one of the biggest problem when it comes to drugs and alcohol is the effect that it can have on people's behaviour. It can lead people to act in ways that they might not normally including violent behaviour or putting themselves or others at risk. When you are under the influence of narcotic substances, you are not fully in control, no matter whether you believe it or not. The effects marijuana also do not leave your system for up to three weeks which means that for a long period of time your behaviour can be affected even if you have only had a little.

When we live in a community, not just the small one we have here as RVA but also as part of the community in Saint Vincent, we need to be aware at all times of the consequences of our actions. Within the school, we have a duty of care to one and other and where drugs and alcohol are involved we cannot expect to get the best out of people. It means that the work in the school moves more slowly and occasionally things will be missed entirely. In the local community, there are many issues related to drug and alcohol addiction. If we are not aware and go to share a drink, with someone who is addicted to alcohol, although it does not affect us directly, that one drink may lead to several more for them and then spending the money that otherwise would have paid for their child to go to school.

Every student is required to write about why they are willing to agree to the frames before they arrive in RVA. Here is what I wrote two years ago as I joined the community:

I have chosen to agree to the school's frames on alcohol and drugs for a number of reasons, for myself, for others and for the sake of change.
Firstly, I believe it will be better for both my physical and mental health and therefore will prove beneficial to my wellbeing. I have never been partial to taking drugs and already refrain from being drunk and this is due to wanting to be in control of my situation at all times or in other words, keep myself safe.
Taking into consideration the drug and alcohol issues faced by developing countries while working within these countries, it makes sense to avoid funding these industries. This ties into being a role model because if it is clear that not drinking and not taking drugs is an option others are able to put this into their frame of reference and make different choices. Both drugs and alcohol can result in exacerbating mental health issues that are present and it's better to find a way to help people through these without the crutch of drugs or drink.
Considering Ghandi's "Be the change that you want to see in the world" as a discussion point, I think that most change is organic and you have to start off small and influence people as you go. Sometimes to allow change, people first need to see that it is in fact possible to do so. Once the seed is planted, stopping drug and alcohol consumption becomes a much more viable option and the idea starts to grow promoting better health and wellbeing.
Looking at all of the positive effects that having a drug and alcohol free framework has for personal and developmental reasons, it is a logical step for the school and student to follow.

When we make an agreement, we owe it to ourselves to act on that and hold ourselves fully responsible for all of the actions that we take. The reasons that I wrote two years ago are still valid for me here today and now more than ever I see that we need to be the ones that are making the change. Some people will believe that it is not possible, but you need to be the one that is making the effort, taking the initiative and starting something new.

Respect yourself, respect your community and respect the frames.

Heather Cumberland