California students take proactive approach against underage drinking

By Jamie Jordan, Vista del Lago HS, Folsom, Calif.

Teenagers and alcohol. Most likely, this combination sounds dismal, but Folsom Cordova teens are changing the conversation.

Students involved with Club Live at Folsom and Sutter Middle Schools and Friday Night Live at Vista del Lago High School recently participated in the filming of an educational video compiled by the Sacramento County Office of Education to combat underage drinking, according to SCOE’s Prevention and Student Services coordinator Joelle Orrock.

The video, “Wasted: The Truth of Underage Drinking in Sacramento County,” features FCUSD students speaking on the issue in our community, and encourages parents to take action.

Students like Vista’s Maggie Keller say that, through the video, they are creating a dialogue to voice youth concerns about the problem of underage drinking in our society.

“Personally, I discussed why I believe minors feel compelled to drink,” Keller said. “Why they believe it will make them seem ‘cool’ and ‘fit in.’ I tried to emphasize these ridiculous incentives and show that the minors [sic] ambitions (beliefs on what drinking will achieve) are never really achieved.”

The video premiered at the Folsom Police Department on Feb. 24, in a red carpet roll out. In addition to the video, the event featured a welcome from David W. Gordon (SCOE’s Superintendent of Schools), student speakers from Sutter and Vista, an overview of enforcement activities by Officer Andrew Bates, and an introduction to the video by Orrock.

Orrock, a key proponent in the production, says that the video was created with the help of not only students, but community partners like FCUSD, the Folsom Police Department, health programs, and the County Department of Behavioral Health.

“Visual media is a powerful tool and we think this [the project] will be an incredible resource to tell the story of underage drinking in our county and to really allow for great discussions among youth, parents, and community members as to how we can work together to create lasting community change around this issue,” Orrock said.

According to Orrock, Butte County Prevention Unit developed the video six years ago, and, through funding from the Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant, SCOE was able to localize it with pertinent statistics, local solutions, and the interviews from community members.

“While alcohol use remains a problem nationwide, one of the reasons the Sacramento County Office of Education received the grant was because of high numbers of teens in the Sacramento area using alcohol,” Bates said. “The Folsom Police Department participated in the project because we are very concerned about the problems associated with teen alcohol use.”

In addition to its participation in the video and its premiere, Bates says that the Folsom Police Department is required to complete “decoy operations to reduce the availability of alcohol to minors and party patrols to locate minors drinking at house parties” under a separate grant to limit binge drinking.

FCUSD students are also taking a proactive approach. At Vista alone, students organized a parent pledge drive to combat the issue of underage drinking.

“I see underage drinking affect many people in our society and it concerns me that it will only get worse,” Keller said. “I strive to make it better!”