Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Alcohol prevention task force continues work

Hannah Jacobs (left) and Jessy Schulte (center) listen to Lorrie Lewandowski speak about the 2010 ADAMHS Youth Survey. Three of the New Cool campaign posters can be seen hanging on the wall.

The Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol Task Force, part of the Wood County Educational Service Center’s Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug (ATOD) program, heard good news about the fight against underage drinking in Wood County when they met Monday evening.

Lorrie Lewandowski, director of the Reducing Alcohol Abuse in Secondary Schools (RAASS) Grant, noted that according to the 2010 Wood County youth survey, not only has alcohol use declined, but it was the fastest rate decline between any two years since the survey began in 2004.

On Monday, task force members learned that during an Alternative Activities Subcommittee meeting, members discussed the idea that maybe one of the reasons youth resort to alcohol use is due to boredom. They also discussed the possibility that it may not by an issue of lack of alternative activities, but instead that teens don’t know what is available to them.

To address that, the committee invited Shelen Stevens, director of the Weston and Grand Rapids public libraries and the survivor of an automobile accident caused by a drunk driver that killed both of her parents, to discuss library calendars.

“Each one of our libraries have Web sites and newsletters,” she said. Each includes a calendar of events for community members of all ages. “I’m in the Otsego school district, so all of my events are forwarded to teachers.”

The library, she said, has proven to be a popular hangout for youth. The Weston library had 289 teens participate in the summer reading program. On a typical summer day this year, there were 48 students in the library.

“A lot of it is word of mouth,” she said. “And I fed them. I let them help out and help the little kids”

The task force will be working on ways to use the library to find alternative activities for students.

Task force members also learned that The New Cool media campaign it helped to create is now up and running in Wood County schools. “The new cool is changing the perception of what is cool in a youth’s life,” said RAASS grant community organizer Debbie Marinik. “It’s a very positive approach to alternative activities for youth.”

As part of that positive approach, inspirational posters are hanging in schools and are making their way into Wood County communities with the help of the task force members.

“The more we can get these posters in the communities, the more this will become a recognized message.”

Task force members also learned that the CMCA Street Team was active at area fairs and festivals during the summer months. Street team members include current and former high school students who talked with community members about their attitudes regarding underage drinking. To gather this information, Street Team members encouraged residents to gather surveys.

Street Team member Jessy Schulte said that a lot of people who filled out the survey talked openly about their answers. At the Wood County Fair, 91 percent of those who filled out the survey viewed underage drinking as a problem.

“We’d get a range from ‘it’s fine in our house’ and ‘if you can be in the military, you can drink,’ to ‘if you’re not 21, you aren’t allowed to drink,’” said Schulte.

‘There were a lot of people who said they allowed their kids to drink but only at their own house,” added Street Team member Hannah Jacobs.

The next task force meeting will be held Nov. 15, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Wood County Educational Service Center.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Teens join effort to reduce underage drinking

 The Wood County Educational Service Center’s alcohol prevention program had a display booth at the Wood County Fair to survey attendees on their perception of underage drinking in Wood County.  

The surveys were conducted by the Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol (CMCA) Street Team. This team is comprised of teen leaders from Wood County schools who are promoting the media campaign, The New Cool. This campaign, which will go into full swing with the beginning of the school year, is designed to engage youth to make positive choices as alternatives to underage drinking.

Fun giveaways and coloring pages were also part of this booth that had lots of participation from
Wood County children, teens and adults throughout the day.

Jayden Haylett, age 6, of Bowling Green; and Brenna DeVall, age 8, of North Baltimore, colored signs featuring the New Cool logo and finished the sentence, “My cool is…”

Breanna wrote that she likes cats and gymnastics, and is good at swimming.

“I like Lions,” wrote Jayden. “I like gymnastics.”

Other youth who finished the sentence this week wrote said they enjoy swimming, going to grandma’s house, fishing, camping, going to the fair and walking. The idea of the worksheet was to get youths to think of ways to enjoy life while alcohol-free.

Melissa Haylett, of Bowling Green, said she doesn’t see a lot of underage consumption.

“I think it was a lot worse when I was growing up,” said Melissa Haylett, of Bowling Green. She is Jayden’s grandmother and Breanna’s aunt. “I think the schools are getting more involved and making more of an issue out of it.”

“It appears she’s right,” said Debbie Marinik, the community organizer for the Reducing Alcohol Abuse in Secondary Schools (RAASS) grant through the Wood County Educational Service Center, which funds  CMCA and the street team. “From the latest alcohol survey this year, alcohol use from grades 7 through 12 is definitely down in Wood County in comparison to national figures. But we still have a lot to do.

People who took the survey were invited to be a part of the Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol Task Force to work on the problem of underage alcohol use in Wood County. The next task force meeting will be held Aug. 30, from 6:30 to 7:30.

The street team is an important segment of the New Cool campaign.

“I heard about Teen Institute and I went to the meetings,” said Kelsey Long, who will be a sophomore at Eastwood High School. “I just kept going,” and became more involved in leadership roles, including The New Cool Street Team.
“I have been involved with TI since my freshman year,” said Tyeler Mazey, a senior football player at Lake High School. “I can be on the street team during the summer and most of the school year.”

“I like to make a difference,” he added. “The less underage drinking, the less the chance for anything (negative) to happen.”

The New Cool Street Team will also have a booth at the Pemberville fair.
Jayden Haylett, age 6, left, and Brenna DeVall, age 8, participate in youth activities at the Wood County Educational Service Center’s Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol booth at the Wood County Fair Sunday.