2008-03-27 / Letters to the Editor

Help crack down on teen drinking

Does your child drink? According to statistics, two out of five children have consumed alcohol before entering the ninth grade, and the average age to begin drinking is not as an upperclassman in high school.

The average age of a child's first drink is now 12, and nearly 20 percent of 12- to 20 year-olds are considered binge drinkers, this from the American Medical Association. The statistics for high school are even more shocking; more than 50 percent of students at North Kingstown High School (NKHS) have consumed alcohol. Next time you see a group of teenagers from NKHS, according to statistics, every other one uses alcohol. Do these statistics shock you? Well luckily, there are people who are trying to bring these numbers down. The Jamestown Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force and our local police are trying to do something about it.

On March 6, MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) held a conference to discuss the issues of underage drinking in Rhode Island. Task Force Coordinator, Laura Hosley, Student Assistance Counselor Stephanie Nocon, State Rep. Bruce Long, Police Chief Tom Tighe, Lieutenant Bill Donovan, and I represented Jamestown at this event. We heard the story of a father who just four months ago lost his son due to underage drinking. He talked about how he never thought it could happen to him, never in his town. Even though he tried to warn his child about the effects of alcohol, he was killed in a drunk-driving accident. Sadly, Jamestown and North Kingstown have lost their share of young people. We, on the Jamestown Task Force and Jamestown Police, as well as Rep. Long, will do anything in our power to prevent tragedies like these, but we need your help.

At this conference, we strategized about how to combat underage drinking in our town. We created a multi-faceted plan to raise awareness, educate students and citizens of the effects of underage drinking, and increase enforcement of the drinking laws. The task force would like to begin an awareness campaign about the effects of underage drinking in our community, and what you can do as a citizen to assist. We are expanding substance abuse education at the Lawn Avenue School, where Project Northland, an alcohol curriculum for grades 6, 7, and 8, has begun. Youth groups and the general Rules of Conduct at the Teen Center encourage healthy behavior, not destructive ones. It would be great to have a program for parents to help their kids with peer pressure making healthy decisions and to realize that it just may be "their kid." Our police will crack down on underage drinking, and those who enable it. We are working on an anonymous tip line, for anyone who wishes to call to report underage drinking or parties. The police talked about doing "ridealongs," so citizens can learn what really goes on in their town.

The name of the conference was "Underage and Underground," not only because it is a secret kept by these teens, but because eventually, it can lead to teens being literally underground. With a lot of hard work and your support we can have an impact on underage drinking in Jamestown.

Mariel Mastrostefano


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