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The prom promise

May 01, 2000|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Having the Angel of Death stalk your school's hallways during prom week may seem kind of creepy. But members of the Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) group at North Hagerstown High see the chilling stunt as a way to open the eyes of fellow students to a real risk of driving while intoxicated, said SADD adviser Mary Jo Ashburn.

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The group, which organizes Prom Promise activities at North High every spring, planned to have a person dressed as the Angel Gabriel walk around and, at regular intervals throughout the day, tap people's shoulders, Ashburn said.

Those who are tapped have to remain quiet for the rest of the day, ending with a visit to a mock cemetery, she said.

The grave exercise is one of an array of events the group planned for the week leading up to the school's May 6 prom in hopes of getting fellow students to sign a pledge not to use alcohol or other drugs, Ashburn said.

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Students in high schools across Washington County - and around the country - are organizing similar activities to persuade their classmates to make the same "Prom Promise."

Started in 1989 by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Prom Promise is a positive peer pressure program that encourages teenagers to sign a pledge to stay sober, especially around prom and graduation, said Kerry Francis, a spokeswoman for Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide Insurance.

The company has been promoting the program since 1990.

All of Washington County's public high schools participated in Prom Promise in some fashion last year, said Valen Meadows, associate agent at Meadows Insurance in Boonsboro and North High's sponsor for the past eight years.

While many Prom Promise activities are designed to shock students, like the Angel of Death and mock crash scenes, others use a fun approach to get students in the spirit, he said.

Among the activities at Boonsboro High this year is "Put a lid on drugs day," when students are encouraged to wear a crazy hat.

At Williamsport High, a crash test dummy passed out Dum Dums and Smarties candies to students during prom week.

Fun or scary, the activities have the same aim - making students realize that driving after drinking or taking drugs is stupid and can have devastating results.

Something like Prom Promise is needed, local students say.

"I think alcohol and driving is a really big issue for teenagers," said Katie McNew, 17, a senior at Williamsport High School, where the senior class takes charge of Prom Promise activities.

"A lot of times, people just don't think. So we try to show them what can happen and what the consequences can be," McNew said.

Williamsport High senior Rachel Thorpe, 18, who describes herself as "a straight-edge sort," said she thinks the Prom Promise program has a positive influence, especially on younger students.

"It lets people know you're not alone if you say 'no,' " Thorpe said.

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