Brain Matters.  The teen brain is not a just smaller version of the adult brain.  The frontal and temporal lobes of the brain continue to develop until the age of 25 and it is these developing brain areas that are the most vulnerable to damage from alcohol and other drug use.  During the teen years, it is critical to educate young people about the importance of brain health, while encouraging them to pursue positive risks and natural highs.  The programs below help educate teens on the impact of marijuana, alcohol and other drugs on the developing brain using a style that is accessible to young people.
 

Keynote: “How to Get High Naturally”

Ideal Settings: Assemblies, Conferences
Ideal Audience Size:  100 – 5,000 depending on the venue

Length: 60+ minutes

This powerful and entertaining presentation focuses on natural highs, emotional resilience and mental health.  It has been described as the perfect combination of stand-up comedy, interactive demonstrations and inspirational stories.  Matt empowers students to be leaders in their lives and make changes in their environment.  During the program, he also shares his own story of student prevention leadership, as the founder of a nationally recognized student group at Bucknell University.

Like all Matt’s programs, “How to Get High Naturally” has specific learning objectives. Students will:

  1. Understand some basic science behind natural highs, such as running, laughing and helping others. 
  2. Be able to identify their own natural highs and the value of using them to cope with stress.
  3. Understand the importance of having friends who are alcohol, tobacco and drug free.
  4. Be able to discuss the effects of marijuana and alcohol use on the brain (e.g. memory and IQ) when used prior to the age of 25.
  5. Have fun and associate having fun with prevention in high school.

 

Keynote: “Life Is Disappointing, and other Inspiring Thoughts”

Brain Matters:  Young people are growing up in an on-demad, smartphone and Uber culture, where every day life is rarely full of disappointments.  However, when life intervenes and a test is failed or a game is lost, many young people show little resilience.  Since 2011, Matt has been working with military families at post-deployment conferences focused on building resilience.  As a result of these events, Matt created this program on stress reduction techniques and ways to support young people in coping with life problems. 

Ideal Settings: All School Assemblies, Conferences

Ideal Audience Size: 100-5,000

Length:60+ minutes

This dynamic presentation combines Matt's signature style of mixing stand-up comedy, audience interaction and psychological research on building resilience in teens.  The program includes a discussion on stress management (e.g. meditation, reframing emotional pain) and seeking out an empathetic support network.  In addition, if focuses on inspirational stories of people who have faced disappointment and found inspiration through the pain. 

Like all Matt’s programs, “Life Is Disappointing and Other Inspiring Thoughts” has specific learning objectives. Students will:

  1. Learn about positive social support, healthy forms of self-expression and creative ways to express emotions. Here are the three points:
    • The Most Beautiful Waves Come From the Biggest Storms,
    • Sit With Emotions,
    • Change Your School or Change Your School 
  2. Be able to understand the benefit of struggling in life
  3. Be able to utilize 2-3 healthy coping mechanisms in daily life to reduce stress and increase productivity.
  4. Have fun and leave feel more empowered to overcome barriers in their life.

 

Workshops:

Ideal Audience: Student Leaders, Prevention Groups

Ideal Audience Size:  50 or less

Duration: 60-90 minutes

"Public Speaking Workshop”  Teens vary wildly in terms of their ability to get up and speak to audiences, especially their peers.  This workshop breaks down the basics of public speaking and shows examples of effective communicators who use humor, motivation and emotion to convey their messages.  In addition, it encourages each student to challenge themselves by choice to present material in front of the group.  

"Brainstorming Workshop”  This leadership workshop utilizes the experience of student leaders to brainstorm elements of their school/environment that they feel is in need to change.  It focuses on large and small group discussion to identify problem areas at the school in need of attention.  For example, students at a DC school decided to petition the administration to delay the start of school by 15 minutes.  They not only came up with the idea during the workshop, but were able to present it to faculty and getting feedback prior to taking it to the administration.

“The Brain, Behavior and Alcohol” The drug of choice for young people remains alcohol – nearly quarter of 12th graders reported binge drinking in the past month (Monitoring the Future Survey, 2012). However, neuroscientists are just beginning to learn about the life-long changes caused by adolescent binge drinking. The adolescent brain is uniquely vulnerable to risk-taking and addiction, both potential outcomes of frequent binge drinking. This workshop is an interactive discussion of the effects of alcohol use on the developing brain and behavior. Dr. Bellace uses humor and a non-judgmental approach to convey neuroscience research that supports choosing healthy natural highs over chemical highs like alcohol.

“The Brain, Behavior and Weed” Some people believe that weed is “like salad.” This funny, but sadly inaccurate statement is consistent with the data showing a decrease in the number of young people who disapprove of regular marijuana use (Monitoring the Future Survey, 2012). The relaxation of state marijuana laws, smoking of the drug as “medicine” and spread of misinformation through pop culture creates an illusion that pot is safe for the adolescent brain. This workshop is an interactive discussion of the effects of marijuana use on the developing brain and behavior. Dr. Bellace uses humor and a non-judgmental approach to convey neuroscience research that supports choosing healthy natural highs over chemical highs like marijuana.

 

Multi-Day Workshops:

Ideal Audience: Health, Science or other Classes

Ideal Audience Size:  30 or less

Duration: 60 minutes

Session 1: "Brain, Behavior and Addiction" The drug of choice for young people remains alcohol – nearly a quarter of 12th graders reported binge drinking in the past month (Monitoring the Future Survey, 2012). However, neuroscientists are just beginning to learn about the life-long changes caused by adolescent binge drinking.  Some people believe that pot is “like salad.” This funny, but sadly inaccurate statement is consistent with the data showing a decrease in the number of young people who disapprove of regular pot use (Monitoring the Future Survey, 2012). The relaxation of state marijuana laws, smoking of the drug as “medicine” and spread of misinformation through pop culture creates an illusion that pot is safe for the adolescent brain. This workshop is an interactive discussion of the effects of alcohol and marijuana use on the developing brain and behavior. Dr. Bellace uses humor and a non-judgmental approach to convey neuroscience research that supports choosing healthy natural highs over chemical highs like marijuana.

Session 2: "Your Natural High Story"  For too long, the emphasis in prevention is on the negatives of the drug user and the drug use.  This workshop shifts the focus to natural highs and how to integrate them into everyday life.  Healthy natural highs are all around us and this workshop encourages students to identify their favorite natural highs and the emotions they elicit.  In addition, students get to share their favorite natural high story with the group.  In this program, Dr. Bellace uses the "teachable moment" style of presenting to interject information and humor.

 

Natural High Comedy Show

Ideal Audience: Students, Parents and Teachers

Ideal Audience Size:  30 or more

Duration: 90 minutes

This event is a great way to take Matt's natural high message to the next level. The stand-up comedy show is perfect for high school-aged students and their parents.  This show brings the laughs without relying on material that promotes substance abuse.  The show lasts up to 90 minutes and includes Matt and two other comedians from New York City.  Past shows have included comedians such as Joe Matarese from The Late Show with David Letterman and Comedy Central Presents, Ted Alexandro from The Late Show with David Letterman, Conan O’Brian and Jimmy Kimmel Live and a nationally known improv comedy troupe called The Indicators.

 

Public Speaking/ Stand-up Comedy Workshop:

Ideal Audience: Students and Staff

Ideal Audience Size:  30 or more

Duration: 90 minutes

This event is a great way to have a natural high while learning to give others a natural high!  The workshop discusses the main points of public speaking with an emphasis on humor.  Even if you don't consider yourself a naturally funny person, there are techniques you can use to be more comfortable in front of the audience and connect with them.  Each participant will present material in front of the group and receive supportive feedback.

 

Media Campaign: Weed Is Not Salad

Ideal Audience: Students, Parents and Teachers

This unique media campaign combines Matt's comedic material with the talents of award winning cartoonist Doug Bratton.  The Weed is Not Salad campaign was initially commisissioned by the Croton Community Coalition in Croton, NY as a anti-marijauana media campaign for students.  Six different cartoons were created and distributed as a way to catch the attention of students while delivering a message about the negative impact of marijuana on the teen brain.  Check out this clip about the campain:

 

Clip about the 'Weed Is Not Salad' Campaign sponsored by the Croton Coalition in NY.