Safety Zone Sponsoring Summer Program To Research, Combat Underage Drinking

Teenagers face so many pressures these days, that underage drinking all too often gets swept under the rug.

Soon, however, St. John students will have a fun and educational program where they can learn all about the dangers of alcohol consumption.

The island’s victims advocacy group, The Safety Zone, is sponsoring Community Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol, a free summer program. The seven week program, which will begin on Monday, June 18, will convene Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Julius E. Sprauve School and St. Ursula’s Multipurpose Center.

While the summer program is open to students from 12 to 17, organizers are focusing on getting 13- to 15-year-olds involved, ex-plained Safety Zone project manager Don Turner.

“We think kids in that age group will really be able to get involved and contribute to the program while making a difference in their lives and the community,” said Turner.

Educational and Fun
The program is designed to educate the students while keeping their attention with fun activities, Turner added.

“We’re going to take some field trips to places like  the V.I. Legislature to allow kids to see our government at work,” said Turner. “But we’re also thinking of taking some fun trips to places like the Compass Rose mini-golf course and the Reef Bay trail.”

Throughout the program, students will create presentations about the dangers of underage drinking, explained Turner.

“Our primary focus is to mold this group of young people into making presentations to the community about the dangers of underage access to alcohol,” he said. “We will expect the students to conclude this seven week process with the firm understanding of what message they want to present to the community.”

If the program seems a bit open-ended, that is the point, Turner added.

Self-governance by Students
“A lot of this is going to be self-directed,” he said. “We’re trying to give our participants as much ownership of this as possible.

We’re going to select some of the participants to serve on the advisory group of the project so they will also be involved with the governance.”

It won’t be all fun and games, the students will also be expected to do research work, according to Turner.

“As part of the program we are going to be involving the students in research activities, where they will research the environment where alcohol gets into the hands of underage drinkers,” said The Safety Zone project manager. “They will do computerized research and traditional research in libraries and other places. One of the things we want to to get an idea of is what is on the record regarding underage drinking.”

Safety Zone officials have been conducting their own research lately as well, Turner added.

Public Disagreement
“We’ve been spending the last three months doing research of our own on how the community thinks about underage drinking,” said Turner. “We’ve found there is a wide range of thinking about whether or not underage drinking is really a problem. Some people think it’s a big problem and some people don’t think there is a problem at all.”

“While pretty much across the board people feel that underage people should not drink, there were people on both ends of the spectrum and all along the middle regarding how much of a problem it is,” Turner continued.

The program is funded by the Department of Health, division on mental health, alcoholism and drug dependency services, the V.I. Prevention State Incentive Grant and the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration.

Sign Up by June 15
To participate in The Safety Zone’s summer program students between the ages of 12 and 17 must register before June 15. For more information, or to sign up for the program, contact Turner or Safety Zone project facilitator Latoya Browne at 69-7233.