Students say much can be done to fight underage drinking

March 29, 2006|by ROBERT SNYDER


Jordan Shultz says the way to get teenagers to stop drinking alcohol is to scare them with the truth of its consequences.

"We need consequences that are going to affect us and that are going to make us think about it when we make a decision," said Shultz, 18, following a forum Tuesday in Martinsburg to find solutions to combat teenage drinking, which many teens in attendance said their peers turn to out of boredom.

The forum is part of a nationwide initiative this month hosted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to address the issue of underage drinking. The Underage Drinking Prevention: Town Hall Meeting at Martinsburg High School drew a number of student and community leaders who took part in a panel discussion following a presentation by students from Hedgesville High School, which outlined the costs associated with the problem.


The price tag for underage drinking in West Virginia in 2001 was $369 million, with 25 percent of all alcohol sold in the state consumed by underage drinkers, the students said, citing information from the International Institue for Alcohol Awareness.

Shultz said students need to be hit where it hurts to get them to stop drinking.

"We need punishment that directly affects us, not just slaps on the wrist," the Hedgesville High School student said, calling for community service requirements that could only be performed on Fridays and Saturdays, and for the wearing of a sign as a form of public humiliation.

Some students decried the lack of available activities.

The panel, which included two members, Margaret Smith-Walker and Cindy Smailes-Rybak, a Mothers Against Drunk Driving victim's advocate, who said they had lost children to accidents involving drunk drivers, agreed more needs to be accomplished to address the issue and students must be part of the solution.

"We have so many kids that want to make a difference ... but they don't always have the opportunity to do that," said panelist Traci Welch, who, along with Family Resource Network Executive Director Judith Boykin, said local officials need to better fund resources that support activities for youths.

"Young people are mentoring us and telling us to get our act together," said Boykin, who called for a 1960s-style demonstration to raise awareness of the issue.

West Virginia Student Leadership Council member Kayla Grogg said prevention efforts need to begin in middle school.

"I think that's where peer pressure sets in," said Grogg. "That's where I've seen people branch off and try to figure out what they want to do."

Carrie Jenkins of Telamon Corp. said federal funding is being sought by the Berkeley County Substance Abuse Prevention Partnership, which will present a grant application to develop one of a host of programs aimed at keeping teenagers off drugs and alcohol.

West Virginia was awarded $11 million in federal funding for such efforts in 2004, Jenkins said.

The group's first meeting is scheduled for April 5 at 9 a.m. at RESA VIII in Martinsburg.

"I'm hoping to see a prevention plan that rings true to the community and the youth," Jenkins said.

If you go ...

What: Forum to discuss ways to stop underage drinking in Jefferson County, W.Va. It is sponsored by the Jefferson County Coalition on Substance Abuse Inc.

When: April 3, 7 p.m.

Where: Jefferson High School, 4141 Flowing Springs Road, Shenandoah Junction, W.Va.

For more information, e-mail

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