Prom and graduation are milestones for our community’s families but these rites of passage can put peer pressure on teens that result in increases in underage drinking, with sometimes tragic results.
Statistics show that on prom and graduation nights, six out of 10 high school students feel pressured to drink or use drugs. More than eight in 10 teens say that students who drink or use drugs at prom will likely get behind the wheel and drive. Car crashes kill more teens during the weekends of prom and graduation season than any other time of year.
In Durham and Middlefield, community leaders have made a decision to reach out and provide a clear message to adults and teens about the dangers associated with underage drinking as well as the laws associated with underage drinking.
“It is time to have a community commitment to preventing needless tragedies,” says Betsy Dean, Durham Middlefield Youth and Family Services (DMYFS) Executive Director and Chair of the Durham Middlefield Local Wellness Council (LWC).
The month-long initiative to prevent underage drinking kicks off on May 18 with a Sticker Attack Program. Teens and adults will blanket multipacks of alcoholic beverages in local liquor stores with messages to adults who may consider providing alcohol to teens. Additional warnings will go up on a billboard at the corner of Route 17 and Route 147.
The initiative, which ends on June 24, includes numerous events and activities to ensure the message gets out that underage drinking is dangerous and can end in tragedy.
Teens are playing an integral part in helping to get the message out. Both Strong and Coginchaug schools have an active student-led prevention club called EDGE – Excellent Decisions Guiding Everyday. The club, sponsored by DMYFS, the Local Wellness Council, and RSD13 schools empowers teens to increase awareness of the dangers of risky behaviors, such as drinking and drug, and to promote internet safety, dating safety, and safe driving.
Prom and graduation are “high season” for these groups of committed teens and culminates their year-long effort to keep their peers safe.
“These teens are an inspiration,” says Jane Moen, program director at DMYFS. “They continually step up to address the issues head-on and make a difference despite the pressures to use drugs and alcohol among their peers.”
The month-long initiative is the product of a committed effort that united more than 50 individuals across both towns, including more than 30 student members of the EDGE Teams at Strong and Coginchaug schools, town selectmen, Resident State Troopers, staff members of DMYFS and Middlesex County Substance Abuse Action Council (MCSAAC), members of town ambulance and fire departments, Regional School District 13 principals, guidance counselors, and teachers, local liquor store owners and committed parents and community members.
"An effort this large is unprecedented in Middlesex County and one we are very proud of," said Durham First Selectman Laura Francis. “We could not be more proud to be a part of such a tremendous effort."
Here's how the month-long initiative breaks down:
May 18 – Sticker Attack
Sticker Attack is a project where youth raise public awareness about the minimum drinking age and the dangers of underage drinking by placing stickers on multi-packs of beer, wine coolers, and any other alcohol products at local liquor stores.
The goal of this project is to educate adults and older peers (those who are 21 or over) about the dangers of underage drinking as well as the laws about underage drinking. The aim is to discourage them from providing alcohol to minors.
The project was developed by area teens as part of the DMYFS Teen Power Conference in the summer of 2011. The Teen Power Conference and the Sticker Attack project is funded by the Durham Middlefield Local Wellness Council with leadership by the Strong and CRHS Edge Group Advisors: Jane Moen, DMYFS; Kirsten Beers, Strong School; and Becca Anderson, CRHS. Participating liquor stores are Durham Wine and Spirits and Little Rooster Liquors, both of Durham
EDGE WEEK: May 21 - May 25
May 21 – Chalk Walk at CRHS. Edge Team members will trace their bodies on the sidewalks leading to the doors of CRHS. Inside each body outline will be statistic about the dangers of substance use.
May 22 – Seat Belt Check. EDGE Team members will be at the entrance to the CRHS parking lot checking to see if students are wearing seat belts as they enter school grounds and providing those in compliance with Smarties candy. Those not in compliance will receive written information about the necessity of seat belt use.
May 23 – Red Ribbon Awareness. EDGE Team members will provide all students and staff entering CRHS with a Red Ribbon raffle ticket and gel sticker to put on their clothing, symbolizing a commitment to being substance-free. Throughout the day, raffle tickets will be drawn and winners will receive a red ribbon water bottle.
After school, both the CRHS and Strong EDGE teams will complete a massive effort to place red ribbons on EVERY locker in the school, symbolizing the need to be substance-free. These red ribbons will greet all students as they arrive for school on Thursday morning.
May 24 – Mock Crash. A team of teens and community leaders will present a Mock Crash at CRHS. This moving recreation of a devastating crash will show students and staff what really happens at a crash scene with the hope that it will deter them from making dangerous decisions, including the decision to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, to drive recklessly, to text while driving, or to not wear a seat belt. The Mock Crash will be followed by an assembly program in the CHS Auditorium. (Rain date: May 25)
May 25 – Substance-Free Pledge. All students at CRHS wear red to school and sign a pledge banner indicating their commitment to be substance-free for Prom and Graduation. This event is the culmination of EDGE WEEK.
May 26 - CRHS Prom
All students attending prom will receive red ribbon mints and a red ribbon sticker to place on their prom favor. These red ribbon items provided by EDGE will send a continuous message about their commitment to be substance Free.
May 28 to June 24 - Social Host Billboard and Posters
A billboard with a message to parents about underage drinking will be placed at the intersection of Rte. 17 and Rte. 147.
"The message is simple and clear," says Lisa Mason from MCSAAC. "The majority of parents Say NO to underage drinking. We need parents to be clear about Connecticut’s Social Hosting Law, which clearly mandates the providing alcohol to minors or allowing minors to drink is against the law.”
“Parents and adults are encouraged to go to www.settherulesct.org to understand all the implications and consequences of this law aimed at keeping our teens safe,” says Moen.
Parents are also encouraged to "Like" us on Facebook by searching “Local Wellness Council Durham Middlefield” and join the effort to keep our teens safe from risky behaviors.
For further information contact: Jane Moen, DMYFS staff and EDGE Leader at firstname.lastname@example.org Betsy Dean, DMYFS and LWC at email@example.com Becca Anderson, CRHS teacher, EDGE Leader and Mock Crash Leader at firstname.lastname@example.org Kristen Beers, Strong teacher and EDGE Leader at email@example.com Lisa Mason, MCSAAC and LWC at firstname.lastname@example.org Laura Francis, Durham Selectman and LWC at email@example.com Ben Plant, CRHS Student and EDGE member at firstname.lastname@example.org Collin Plant, CRHS Student and EDGE member at email@example.com Dominique Coppola, CRHS Student and Edge Member at firstname.lastname@example.org Eva Hanks, CRHS Student and EDGE Member at email@example.com Linda Mone, Durham Wine and Spirits Owner at firstname.lastname@example.org