When San Diego entrepreneur Jon Sundt surfs before work, it's for a more important reason than just for the enjoyment of his favorite hobby.
Jon surfs because it is part of a mission to practice a healthy passion, a natural high.
On a cliff overlooking a beach in La Jolla, he recalls his family's tragic past.
“My family was basically destroyed by drugs and I lost my two little brothers,” he said. “So I wanted to do something about it."
Sundt started a nationally recognized anti-drug program called Natural High which encourages kids to pursue a healthy passion so they'll have reason to say “no” to an artificial high.
“You can’t just tell kids ‘don’t do drugs,’” he said. “The advertising world of Madison Avenue has known this for a long time. So how do you get kids interested in tennis shoes? How do you get kids interested in clothes and in music? You get celebrities or people they look up to and you make it cool."
Sundt and his team produced a slick DVD school course hosted by celebrities well-known to young people to realistically describe their own experiences and their choice to avoid drugs and alcohol to instead pursue a passion -- a natural high.
The latest DVD features television personality, designer and author Lauren Conrad, who resisted the fast crowd and penned a best seller.
There is also singer Cassidy Pope who says she can’t perform if she parties. In the program with eye-catching graphics and fast special effects, a variety at athletes appear including X-Games winner Travis Pastrana and professional skateboarder Terry Kennedy who speaks of the first time he left his rough and tumble southern California neighborhood to visit a skateboard park where he found his natural high.
The natural high DVD course is funded solely by contributions and given free to 14,000 schools across California and the nation.
Seven million children have seen the course so far. They are typically fifth, sixth and seventh graders: the age group that might be positively influenced in a way Sundt wishes his two younger brothers were before they died as a result of drug-use.
“The school is the last place where a kid has to sit in a chair for 20 minutes and can’t play with his phone,” he said. “We’ve got the kid sitting still and he has to watch this message! And these messages from celebrities are very powerful.”
They are also effective. In follow-up research, 85 percent of students using the program in all 50 states reported that finding a natural high would help fight the temptation of drugs and alcohol. There is a YouTube channel where kids everywhere have made video pledges and declared their natural high
The foundation’s goal is to extend its reach still. If you would like more information on the free program for a school or if you want to know how you can help this effort including attending a local fundraiser in two weeks featuring Bethany Hamilton, author of Soul Surfer, check out the foundation’s website.