KAN-I HELP web site invites the community to “Make a Pledge” to reduce underage drinking
Families, businesses and individuals can now register their “Pledge for Life,” a commitment to reduce underage drinking through compliance with the laws governing alcohol and other dangerous substances, on-line at www.kan-i-help.org.
The “Pledge for Life” registration gives community members the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to the Pledge for Life Partnership’s efforts to reduce underage drinking. The on-line commitment is among several new features that were introduced on the KAN-I-HELP Information Network web site in April as part of National Alcohol Awareness Month.
The Pledge for Life reads:
“I pledge for life to care for myself,
the people around me and the world I share.
I will obey the laws governing the use
of tobacco, alcohol and other dangerous substances.
I will choose wise highs, those that are safe and healthy.
My words and actions will show my respect for life.”
In conjunction with the Life Education Center’s Slick Tracy alcohol abuse prevention program, the Partnership sponsors Family Poster Nights where parents and their children are encouraged to sign the pledge. The Slick Tracy program reaches approximately 1,000 sixth grade students at 19 schools in Kankakee and Iroquois counties. During the 2003-2004 school year Family Poster Nights will be held for participating sixth graders and their families.
In addition, Life Education Center staff and Jim Riordan, a local youth activist, are working with student organizations at several high schools on the Partnership’s annual “Make a Pledge, Make It Stick” drive. To date, more than 400 students at Bradley Bourbonnais Community High School and Kankakee High School have made a pledge to abide by the laws governing alcohol and other dangerous substances. Schools that are interested in participating should contact the Partnership at 936-4606.
“It is critically important that parents talk to their children about the dangers of using alcohol – especially at this time of year with the homecoming and holiday season approaching,” explained Debra Baron, director of the Partnership.
Although evaluations indicate the Life Education Center’s Slick Tracy, Amazing Alternatives and Powerlines programs are having a positive impact on junior high school students, they are not enough to end underage drinking. Class Action, a new prevention program for high school students, was piloted in the spring at six high schools in Kankakee and Iroquois counties.
“The biggest prevention barrier we have is the number of parents and community members who fail to recognize underage drinking as a serious problem," Baron lamented.
But statistics reveal that alcohol is the number one drug of choice today and the most common contributor to injury, death and criminal behavior among youth, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). It kills 6.5 times more youth than all other illicit drugs combined and research has determined that youth who start drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop an alcohol addiction. Youth who begin prior to age 17 are twice as likely, while individuals who wait until they are 21 have only a one in ten chance of developing a problem later in life.
“However, the good news is that our kids do listen to us,” Baron stressed. “Research has shown parents have more influence on them than anyone or anything else, so it is very important that we convey appropriate attitudes about alcohol use.”
Disturbingly, the most common place for teens to get alcohol is from a parent, sibling or a friend’s family member. Often, these sources engage in excessive drinking -- and frequently with the kids themselves. However, youth whose parents communicate clear policies and consequences about underage drinking, are much less likely to drink at an early age.
Because either drinking in moderation or abstaining is both equally acceptable options for adults, it is important to stress that it is the abuse of alcohol that is the problem, Baron continued. “It is not possible to deter underage alcohol use without addressing the problems caused by excessive drinking, so an on-line screening tool designed to raise public awareness about the consequences of risky drinking behaviors was added to the KAN-I HELP web site.” The screening tool is purely informational and not diagnostic. An on-line referral list to area services providers is available.
Other features on the web site include expanded hot links to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and other prevention and intervention web sites. A summary of “Amazing Alternatives,” fun-filled alcohol-free activities suggested by area 7th graders, and other student projects from the Life Education Center’s programs, will be posted. These initiatives are made possible through the U.S. Department of Education’s Grant to Reduce Alcohol Abuse.
In the future, the web site will feature additional information about activities proven to
counter pressures on the young to drink. They include after-school programs,
recreational facilities and alternative programs for potential school dropouts, job training and community service opportunities.
“We are committed to providing the community with the latest research and strategies to reduce alcohol abuse and believe these features will go a long way in doing that.”
For more information about the Partnership’s alcohol abuse prevention activities, call 815.936.4606.