Student leaders from the Santiago De Compostela Catholic Church’s Friday Night Live chapter recently staged a town hall-style meeting to discuss the dangers of underage drinking and its impacts in their community.
At the “Our Town, Our Health, Our Future” forum, FNL members called on local partners to help raise awareness of the causes and effects of alcohol consumption among minors — and identify potential solutions. The meeting included representatives from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence-Orange County, and St. Joseph Health.
“I believe that this event made an impact on those who attended,” said FNL member Veronica Lopez, “as many of them shared there is a lack of communication between parents and their children regarding the issue.”
Alcohol continues to be the most widely used substance of abuse among U.S. youth, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which sponsored the event.
Data from SAMHSA, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, indicates that about 7.4 million young people aged 12 to 20 drank alcohol within a surveyed month — a ratio of about one in five within that age group. SAMHSA’s 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health says about one in eight minors participated in binge drinking within the span of a month.
With these alarming trends in mind, SAMHSA launched its “Communities Talk: Town Hall Meetings to Prevent Underage Drinking” initiative in February. More than 50 community members attended the local FNL event on March 9 in Lake Forest.
FNL member Daniel Ochoa said he believes parents gained some insight and learned some prevention strategies they can use at home.
“While I cannot state that the event has cured underage alcohol consumption, I can confidently state that the presentation was informative enough for everybody to walk away with something new,” he said.
Administered by OCDE and funded by the county Health Care Agency’s Alcohol and Drug Education and Prevention Team, the Orange County Friday Night Live Partnership encourages young people to take the lead on alcohol and drug prevention activities at school and in their communities.
The partnership also provides opportunities to develop skills in the areas of leadership, communication, team-building and problem-solving. Programs include Friday Night Live at the high school level, Club Live at the middle schools level and Friday Night Live Kids in the upper elementary grades.