In response to the Surgeon General’s call to action, the Orcas Island Prevention Partnership (OIPP) will hold a “Town Hall on Underage Drinking” with youth and a wide range of adults in the community engaging in round-table discussions on Monday, March 31, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Orcas Senior Center. The OIPP “Town Hall” is one of thousands of similar meetings being held around the country during the months of March and April.
This grass-roots effort is based on the successful anti-tobacco campaign waged by the Surgeon General in the 1990s.
“It’s about helping youth make healthy choices and getting the word out about the effects of alcohol on the still developing teen brain,” says Moriah Armstrong of OIPP. “It’s an opportunity for our Orcas youth leadership to engage in conversation with adults from many different sectors of the community.”
Student leaders from Key Club, the FunHouse youth board, Prevention Club, 4-H and the faith community have been recruited to help host the small-group discussions.
A team of teen leaders regularly visit the elementary school to provide non-smoking campaigns and media literacy programs to the sixth grade classes. “Teaching the younger students about deceptive advertising is a good first step to learning about healthy attitudes,” said Armstrong.
At the Town Hall, 16 students will be seated at tables representing different island residents including parents, school faculty from the Orcas High School and Orcas Christian school, youth-serving organizations such as The FunHouse and Orcas Recreation, the faith community and the community at-large. The groups will dialogue with the students regarding their concerns about underage drinking, alcohol’s effect on the growing brain and what works and what does not work to help teens make healthy choices.
Armstrong says, “We’ll explore some popular perceptions and misconceptions about teen drinking. We’ve already had some success at curbing underage drinking. The number of kids in the sixth through 12th grade on Orcas Island who have not had a drink in the last 30 days is 82 percent. As our youth grow older (juniors and seniors in high school) a larger percentage drink. We have to keep working away at it to increase the number of older youth making healthy choices.”
At the end of the round-table discussions, each group will share their ideas with the Town Hall meeting. “The format of the meeting is structured so that each small group can meet with the youth and then suggest strategies to the entire group on ways to support the youth in making healthy choices,” said Armstrong.
A “decadent dessert” and beverages will be served at the meeting. Reservations are suggested. For more information, call OIPP at 376-1547 or visit spotlightonthepositive.com
Lopez in “Jeopardy”
“We’re going to the interactive game format ‘Jeopardy’ to do some myth busting,” said Lopez academic counselor Jeanna Carter. The Lopez High School Teen Leadership group will facilitate the Lopez Island drug and alcohol Town Hall meting on Tuesday, April 1 at the Lopez Center at 6:30 p.m.
“We want to dispel some of the myths about alcohol and drug use in a fun format,” said Carter. “We hope to raise awareness and increase involvement of the students. It will be educational for parents and the community as well.”
Two students, Brooke Schober and Alex Cook, will lead the program with help from Lopez ASB (student council.) The students’ interactive program will promote education, service and teen leadership as a means to curtail underage drinking.
The Lopez Prevention Coalition was started in 2006 by Martha Sharon and Lopez superintendent Bill Evans. This year Tracie Red-Elk of the Lopez Family Resource Center and Gina Cook have joined them. “We have received a $500 grant from the DSHS division of alcohol and substance abuse to move ahead with the Coalition,” said Cook. “Cynthia Stack-Wickman of the San Juan Island Prevention Coalition is taking us under her wing to mentor us.”
“It will be a fun and educational night for everyone,” said Cook. “This is a great way to introduce the community to our new prevention program.”
Prizes will be given away and pizza, brownies and soft drinks will be available for all participants at the Lopez event.
For more information on the national Town Hall meeting program and to learn more about what parents can do to discourage underage drinking, go to www.StartTalkingNow.org.