From May 4 to 7, 125 students at Juneau-Douglas High School signed a pledge to stay "Safe and Sober" before, during and after prom. The high school group Students Against Destructive Decisions sponsored the youth-focused campaign. Their goal was to raise awareness on campus about the legal consequences and real-life dangers of underage drinking, as well as driving under the influence.
The alcohol consumption associated with high school prom is mistakenly viewed by some as a "rite of passage" from teenage life into adulthood. The SADD students have dedicated themselves to changing that behavior.
Teens that signed up were also encouraged to take red rubber "Sober" bracelets as a reminder of their pledge to stay sober, which included a card listing "10 Ways To Stay Safe and Sober." Dum-dum lollipops were also given out with the message "Don't Be A Dummy! Have a Safe and Sober Prom!" and the ever-popular Fatal Vision Goggles were available to demonstrate the visual effects of alcohol on potential drivers. Additionally, drawings and statements donated by students at Mendenhall River Community School were posted throughout the school reminding high school students of reasons why they should not drink for prom.
Underage drinking "is a definite problem in our town," said SADD volunteer Callie Conerton in a radio interview with Jeff Brown, of K-TOO. "(The decision to drink) this one night could impact their entire life. If they're using alcohol and drugs, it could make them less aware of what they're doing."
The Safe and Sober Prom Pledge was not just aimed at high school students. SADD also encouraged parents to talk to their teenagers about the importance of prom and the many reasons why they should stay sober. "It's important for parents to have a talk with their kids and tell them why they should not be drinking on this certain night," said Andrew Vidal, SADD Coordinator.
As part of a grant funded by the Department of Health and Social Services and the Department of Juvenile Justice, SADD has now been an active youth advocacy group within the Juneau community for a year and a half. Working in conjunction with the Juneau affiliate of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD-J), SADD was first introduced to the community by VISTA volunteer Rebecca Clark, and is now advised by AmeriCorps member Andrew Vidal. Throughout the school year, SADD has conducted presentations on the dangers and legal consequences of underage drinking at middle schools and Montessori, developed public service announcements, distributed ribbons reminding drivers to stay safe and sober during the holiday season, and ran booths at local health fairs.
SADD also will raise awareness on its own campus and throughout Juneau to congratulate the seniors and encourage them to stay alcohol-free after graduation. Also, be prepared to be scared sober from SADD activities in the future, as they are looking to host a Haunted House fundraiser this Halloween at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center.
Andrew Vidal is the Teens In Action coordinator for the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.