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Parkrose students focus on underage drinking through PSAs


Parkrose High School juniors Nic Toten, left, and Thomas Northern were among several Parkrose students who visited Entercom Radio’s Portland studios to record public service announcements aimed at preventing underage drinking. The student-written PSAs are raising awareness about the harms of underage drinking and the power parents have to help their kids avoid alcohol use.
Parkrose High School students are turning their experiences with substance abuse into a powerful tool for raising awareness about the harms of underage drinking and the power parents have to help their kids avoid alcohol use.

The students, who are enrolled in Parkrose Intervention Specialist Bob Grovenburg’s Interpersonal Relationships class, have written and recorded radio public service announcements (PSAs) that will air on stations owned by Portland’s Entercom Radio.

The PSAs touch on when and why the teens began using alcohol, why they have chosen to stop drinking, and the enormous influence parents and other caregivers have to help their kids make healthy choices not to drink.

The PSAs were created this spring during workshops led by Oregon Partnership, the statewide nonprofit that provides substance abuse prevention education and treatment referral. The Parkrose students visited Entercom studios in mid-May to record the PSAs and tour the facilities.

Audrie Reed, an 18-year-old Parkrose student who is graduating this year, said she liked the process of creating the PSAs and hopes they make an impact with parents and youth.

“I think it will be good if parents open up their minds and listen to what we have to say,” Reed said. “I want to inform young kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol because I never got information like that when I was younger.”

During the workshops, students discussed their experiences with substance abuse. They also learned about becoming advocates for preventing youth alcohol use and how to communicate messages effectively via radio PSAs.

The Parkrose students are among several young people in the Portland metropolitan area who are developing underage drinking prevention PSAs. These PSAs, supported by Multnomah County, are part of a statewide campaign to reduce Oregon’s high rate of underage drinking.

Youth alcohol use in Oregon has been on the rise in recent years. According to the 2005 Oregon Healthy Teens Survey, about 30 percent of Oregon eighth graders and approximately 47 percent of juniors have had alcohol in the past month. Young girls are drinking at higher rates than young boys (about 33 percent of eighth-grade girls vs. 27 percent of eighth-grade boys). And the rate of binge drinking among the two groups - defined as having five or more drinks of alcohol in a row within a couple of hours - has held steady but remained high during the past couple of years.

The consequences are serious. Research shows that people who start drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to become dependent on alcohol than those who begin drinking at age 21. And alcohol is a factor in suicide, homicide and unintentional injuries, including car crashes, the leading cause of teen death.

Children often face pressure from their peers to drink alcohol. They live in a world where millions of dollars are spent on alcohol advertising - where drinking appears cool, glamorous and without consequence. However, scientific studies show that children are less likely to drink alcohol if their parents or caregivers set clear expectations and enforce consequences. Many kids themselves say their parents’ disapproval keeps them from drinking.

Pamela Erickson, Oregon Partnership’s deputy director who is leading the state underage drinking prevention campaign, said parents carry a potent message.

“Surveys show that parents are the most important influence in their child’s decision to drink or do drugs,” she said. “And, these kids echo those surveys by calling for parents to set boundaries, to monitor their kids’ activities and to be more involved in their lives.”

The Parkrose students’ PSAs underscore the power of parents to help their kids steer clear of alcohol use. While their scripts acknowledge a connection between peer pressure and underage drinking, the students declare, “We say we want to be left alone, but talk to us about the dangers of youth alcohol use. We have enough friends. We need parents. Explain, relate and educate.”

Erickson said the PSA project also has played a key role in raising awareness about how dangerous the environment surrounding youth alcohol use can be.

“By working with these kids, we have learned that the underage drinking scene can be a very dangerous place,” Erickson said. “Parties include other drugs besides alcohol, and there are frequently male adults at the party who are interested in the very young girls. Parents need to be warned about these situations.”

Grovenburg, the Parkrose intervention specialist who has worked at the school for more than two decades, said the PSA project was an important component of a class that aims to keep kids in school, where they can lay a foundation for success.

“My number one goal is to keep kids in school,” Grovenburg said. “That’s always my focus, and helping these kids achieve ongoing sobriety.”

Grovenburg said it’s critical for the teens he counsels to stay in school. “They grow and mature and see things differently down the road,” he said. “And this building (Parkrose High School) is the safest place for them to be. They get fed and cared for here. And it’s the most normal part of their lives.”
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