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Active teens less likely to become drinkers

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By Stephen Thomas

HEBRON ESTATES - When it comes to teenage drinking issues, sometimes the experts are the teens themselves.

A panel of students from both North Bullitt and Bullitt Central high schools gathered to host a town hall forum last spring at the North Bullitt library.

The North Bullitt panel included representatives from the school’s Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) organization, including Shelby Adkins, Katie Brannon, Kayla Horton, Amber Palmertree and Natalie Shaner.

Bullitt Central’s panel consisted of representatives from the Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) led by co-sponsor Jennifer Hallinan. They included Cory Anderson, Tyler Bishop, Brooke Ferguson, Becky Gardner and Zachary Thomas.

The meeting included a video and discussion along with “fatal goggles” allowing an opportunity to experience vision under the influence of alcohol.

A presentation of statistics relating to underage alcohol use and abuse began the event.

“Most underage drinking takes place at home,” said Gardner. “Each year approximately 5,000 die under age 21 due to underage drinking. We had a few in Bullitt County this year.”

North Bullitt Family Consumer Science instructor Melissa Fox acted as event overseer. She mentioned at-home drinking by teens correlated at times with parental approval.

“Parents host parties and feel they’re safer if they keep them (at home), but they’re actually hurting them,” said Fox. “People also think they’re own kids won’t do it (drink at home), but it happens in Bullitt County.”

Gardner shared a statistic that over 75 percent of senior students tried an alcoholic beverage without parental knowledge.

Another statistic showed 20 percent of students attempted binge drinking by Grade 10.

The video focused on setting boundaries with teens, keeping up with technology and communication with other parents.

“Knowing what they’re doing will only make it better,” said Fox. “If you listen, it’s all about Myspace and Facebook.”

Fox said on occasion students wouldn’t tell parents about a party they planned to attend because someone else would likely be drinking even if the student wasn’t.

Gardner said statistics showed teens tend to drink less frequently than adults, but will consume more each time they drink.

One final statistic showed approximately 10 percent of 9- and 10-year-olds have tried alcohol.

“They’re not even in middle school yet,” Gardner said.

During the following discussion both school panels shared knowledge of issue based upon research and first-hand experience:

- The majority of Bullitt County youth do not use alcohol, but many think they do.

- Teens consider drinking to mean drinking until you pass out.

- Tell-tale signs of alcohol use include lack of interest in anything, a drop in grades, physical changes, avoiding activities or sports, rebellion against school or family rules, not wanting to meet friends, coming home and covering up smells with cologne or chewing gum.

- Parents should remain involved in their children’s lives and need to be more open about alcohol issues. Students said parents think they aren’t listening to them, but they are.

- Parents need to learn, and share with children, the effects and consequences involved. Teens may think drinking is harmless or just fun, the bad things won’t happen to me.

- Take your children to places, no matter how big or small, just to show them they can have fun without using alcohol.

- Parents say stay away from trouble, rather than offering help. If you feel like you can’t talk with your parents, talk to a teacher or someone else you can trust.

- Students uninvolved at school are more likely to drink. They should get involved in clubs, activities and groups. Less time limits the desire to drink.

- “Life Skills” should be required curriculum in Bullitt County high schools.

- If parents can’t get through to their children, maybe friends can from a different perspective.

- A friend might get mad at you for a while if you tell them their mistakes or bad choices, but they’ll appreciate it in the long run.

- Sometimes students feel like they have to drink, even if they don’t want to. They need someone to talk with, to understand them and help them feel better about themselves.

Bullitt County Public Schools Safe and Drug Free Schools coordinator Jaime Goldsmith was impressed with the discussion. She stressed keeping kids active in school and clubs as well discouraging parents that offered alcohol or a safe place to drink.

“We need more parental involvement but we need to stop parental providers,” she said.

Goldsmith said every Bullitt County high school has experienced an alcohol-related death in the recent past. She added that teen drinking could effect any type of teen.

“It’s not just the bad kids who drink,” she said. “A lot of popular kids do it.”

Melissa Eggleton attended the event with her daughter Sam and neighbor Kristy Pence. Sam and Kristy attend Zoneton Middle School.

“I think the biggest thing I learned is that teens don’t realize the impact they have on other teens,” Eggleton said.

The Eggleton family knew a student that died from alcohol-related issues. Eggleton brought the girls because she thought further knowledge always helped.

“Sam said she wouldn’t drink, but the education is still important,” said Eggleton. “I was unaware of how high the middle school (alcohol) involvement was.”

Sam said she learned that you’d likely end up dead from using alcohol. Kristy agreed.

“People do it to be cool but that’s stupid,” she said. “It’s harmful.”

Members of the Bullitt County Partners in Prevention attended the event. The group provided students with many of the statistics used. For more information or statistics call PIP at 955-5355 or go to www.bcpartnersinprevention.com.