Visionaries: The Webb Family’s Story

Jake Webb and his mom, Karen, are building a family legacy, based on a shared vision for a stronger community.

“It was pretty much the coolest thing ever.”

So says Jake Webb, when he thinks back to the first time he saw his movie illuminate the 50-foot screen at O’neil Cinemas in Epping, NH. The event? The Granite Youth Film Festival, an annual screening of student-made films dealing with substance abuse and related youth issues, presented by United Way of the Greater Seacoast.

A senior at Portsmouth High School, Jake sees the day-to-say choices that face his peers, decisions that could hold life-altering ramifications. He’s watched one of his classmates whisked away to rehab. He’s heard the stories of “Skittle parties,” where kids dump random prescription drugs into a bowl and dig in.

“I think you make a choice about drugs early,” he says. “You’re either ambivalent or you’re dead-set against them. No one is necessarily ‘for drugs.’ But it’s that ambivalence that leads to trouble.”

And that’s the treacherous nature of substance abuse, particularly in the always-shifting social terrain of high school; the innocuous nature of the temptation. There are no creepy arch-villains emerging from the shadows, dangling baggies of white dust. These are friends, recognizable faces from the hallways.

“Who doesn’t want to be liked?”  Jake says. “You don’t want to say no to your friends.”

Karen Webb, Jake’s mother, knows this. It’s why she became so active in substance abuse prevention since Jake was packing up for middle school. She understands that it’s these early years where attitudes about drugs begin to form.

“It’s a different world,” she says. “And I don’t think most kids are fully prepared for what’s coming.”

Her advocacy led her to Project Safety, a parent-powered drug awareness group. Through this, she plugged into United Way’s supported network of youth-oriented work, included Dover Youth to Youth and Allies in Substance Abuse Prevention.

Fast forward to the big premiere: she has a front row seat to her son’s directorial debut at the Granite Youth Film Festival. She, and the 250 other audience members witnessed Jake Webb and his fellow filmmakers make a public declaration that there is a better way–even if it’s not the most popular.

“It’s important to participate in something like this because so few kids are,” Jake says. “This kind of community involvement has been ingrained in me. It’s definitely become a part of my life.”

Karen pauses as Jake says this, looks at her son and confesses she’s close to bursting into tears. She sees in him a young man who’s opted to make a stand, someone whose example is influencing his younger siblings.

In him, she sees her legacy.