At Northwood High School, in Irvine, California, students have gathered to launch the school’s first, Alzheimer’s Awareness Club. The club was formed to educate other students, and the local community, about Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
The Northwood High Alzheimer’s Awareness Club is comprised of 6 high school students, including:
The team of students held a fund-raising benefit, with a panel of experts, as well as the screening of a Sundance Festival award winning documentary. called “Alive Inside, A Story of Music and Memory.” The screening was followed by a community discussion about Alzheimer’s disease—the 4th leading cause of death in Orange County, California.
Some of the club’s leaders have a family tie to AD, and others have been exposed in various ways. It’s the club that is said to be the one nobody wants to join.
Each teenager in the group is highly motivated to help with the cause of raising awareness for Alzheimer’s disease.
There are several other health related groups on campus at Northwood High School—many of which are more established than the new Alzheimer’s Awareness Club. One such group is the breast cancer awareness group. The high school football team was motivated to wear pink ribbons, honoring the efforts of the group to raise awareness for breast cancer. But, the lack of popularity for the Alzheimer’s Awareness Club has NOT been a deterrent for the group of 6 students, who are committed to spread the word about AD.
Quotes from the Students
“It’s kind of hard to get young people interested in it,” said group member, and high school senior, Claire Coleman. “It’s definitely not the most popular club.”
Claire helps to care for her 75-year-old grandfather who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She says she misses his sense of humor, which has been impacted by the memory loss her grandfather experiences due to AD. “He’ll ask me the same questions about things I’m doing at school,” she said. “I’ll tell him a whole story and then he’ll say, “Wait, what are you talking about?” He gets embarrassed sometimes that he can’t keep up [with the conversation]. I think it’s hard for him. “Having a personal connection, I want to find a way to help other people out there who have family members that are suffering.”
What Do the Experts Say?
According to Kari Walker, the director of education at the Orange County Alzheimer’ Association, nearly 20 percent of students she talks to—in an average high school science class—has a family member who has been affected with the disease.
Walker offers words of encouragement and praise to the students involved in the Alzheimer’s Awareness Club at Northwood High. Walker explained that she thinks young people may be more open about Alzheimer’s disease, being comfortable with “wide exchanges of information through technology. There’s still a stigma attached to this disease, unfortunately,” Walker said. “By raising awareness with younger people, it will help us all get more comfortable to talk about and keep the lines of communication open, so people get the help they need.”