John Gatchalian of Biddeford was the first place winner in the middle school division of an art contest sponsored by Coastal Healthy Communities Coalition. His art shows how he’s been keeping stress levels down during the pandemic. Courtesy Photo

What’s your anti-drug? Is it music, art, walking the beach, or being with like-minded friends?

Students at schools served by the Coastal Healthy Communities Coalition — Arundel, Biddeford, Buxton, Dayton, Hollis, the Kennebunks, Old Orchard Beach and Saco —were asked to think about what they do to relieve stress, especially in these trying times.

In May, while students were learning remotely, instead of in the classroom, CHCC launched its first ever art contest with the theme of “What’s Your Anti-Drug?” Youth submitted artwork from all over northern York County showing what they do instead of drugs during stressful times, said CHCC program coordinator Tricia Cote.

Elias Grabowski of Kennebunk High School took second place in the high school division of an art contest sponsored by Coastal Healthy Communities Coalition. He said during quarantine he relied o his art to help keep him positive. Courtesy Photo

“During quarantine, I have relied on my art to keep me positive,” said Kennebunk High School student Elias Grabowski, who took second place in the high school division. “I channel my emotions to create pieces of art on my piano or on a canvas. I am a naturally motivated person who comes up with ideas and concepts easily. More kids should be spending time creating artwork because it is a way of escaping this world. Most of my art has to do with planets and escaping this reality. As I create colorful planets, I dream and think of how we may not be alone out in the universe. Compared to the vastness of the universe the problems I currently face (quarantine, online learning, lack of social engagement) seem small and manageable.”

Biddeford Middle School student John Erwin Gatchalian, the first-place winner in the middle school division, said he remains motivated, despite the challenging times.

“I am achieving my goals. I beat stress by staying positive. I rely on my family, friends, classmates, and teachers for support. I read, study, play, and pray. I say “NO” to alcohol and drugs. I will keep going because I am resilient.”

Maddy Lachance of Middle School of the Kennebunk, the third-place winner in her division, said she beats stress through art.

“The anti-drug that helps me get through this difficult time is both drawing and coloring,” said Lachance. “Drawing has been a hobby of mine that I really enjoy doing.”

CHCC is a community health-based coalition that works to promote nutrition education, reduce substance misuse and prevent childhood lead poisoning, Cote said.

“Participants could use any media for their artwork and had the freedom to use their own creativity,” said Cote. The artwork was judged in two categories: Middle school and high school (grades 9-12). Each category had a first, second and third place winner. Prizes included an iPad, wireless headphones and an Echo Dot.

Winners in the high school division include: first place, Lillian Gaudiano of Bonny Eagle High School; second place, Elias Grabowski of Kennebunk High School; and third place, Tabitha Burgess of Bonny Eagle High School.

Middle School winners included: John Gatchalian in first place, Oli Velez in second, both of Biddeford Middle School; and third place winner Maddy Lachance of Middle School of the Kennebunks.

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