Field Note: Catalyst: Expanding Harm-Reduction Education and Youth Participation in the Context of the War on Drugs
Catalyst is a year-long, bilingual (English/Spanish) fellowship program for high school students and their teachers who live in communities affected by the war on drugs (WoD) that is being waged across the Americas. This educational effort is a response to the social suffering caused by the WoD. Catalyst is working to forge transnational networks of solidarity and analysis among youth on the frontlines of the WoD and to ensure that their voices are heard by the growing drug-policy reform movement. In this field note, I argue that existing abstinence- and prevention-based programs fail to address the structural roots of the WoD and that a radical, more comprehensive approach to drug education is needed. I first lay out the context and rationale for the Catalyst program and then outline some of the challenges and lessons that emerged during its inaugural session. Based on facilitators’ and students’ experiences at that session, the program is seen as a promising first step toward an alternative approach to drug education. I conclude the field note by suggesting new avenues for inquiry and collaboration between the field of education in emergencies and drug-policy reform.