Alcohol Awareness Month activities planned
To encourage communication on the dangers of early alcohol use, the I-KAN Regional Office of Education and the Pledge for Life Partnership will participate in the 2004 Reach Out Now National Teach-In Campaign April 26-30.
The nationwide event targets teachers and parents of 5th graders and is an initiative of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The I-KAN Regional Office was one of only three sites in Illinois invited to participate and the event is one of several activities being planned by the Partnership during National Alcohol Awareness Month in April.
Though many parents believe that 10-and 11-year old children are too young to talk to about underage drinking, statistics reveal otherwise. While it is true that most 5th graders do not drink alcohol, some have begun experimenting with it and many are beginning to encounter pressures to try it. Surveys conducted last year by the Pledge for Partnership revealed that approximately 4 percent of 4th grade students in Kankakee and Iroquois counties reported they had used alcohol in the past year. Among 6th graders, use jumped to 16 percent — a 400 percent increase!
Even more alarming was the fact that these rates doubled and tripled among 8th graders, said Debra Baron, director of the Partnership. “Forty-eight percent of 8th grade students surveyed in Iroquois County said that they had consumed alcohol in the past year and 34 percent of 8th graders in Kankakee County reported the same.
“The sooner we talk to our children about the dangers of alcohol use, the better. Research shows that parental disapproval of underage drinking is the key reason children choose not to drink,” Baron added. To help make the discussion easier, a family resource guide detailing facts about alcohol and suggestions on how to talk about it to children will be available to the parents of all 5th grade students. Parents who do not receive a copy, should call the Pledge for Life Partnership at 936-4606.
In addition, all 5th grade teachers are being invited to participate by teaching the SAMHSA prepared prevention class to their students. To highlight this activity, Dr. Kay Pangle, Regional Superintendent of Schools, will teach the 5th grade prevention curriculum to students at Manteno Elementary School at 1 p.m. Tuesday, April 27. The class will take place in the Life Education Center which is scheduled there that week.
Getting the message out earlier is even more critical than we once thought, Baron continued. “New research is teaching us that alcohol negatively interferes with adolescent brain development and, more than 40 percent of individuals who start drinking before the age of 15 will develop alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence at some point in their lives.”
In addition to participating in Reach Out Now, the Partnership, along with the Life Education educators, is sponsoring a Wise Highs assembly for 6th, 7th and 8th grade students. The program highlights healthy alternatives for self expression without the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. It is being held in cooperation with participating schools on April 23 at the Lincoln Cultural Center in Kankakee and will feature performances by the 2003 Kankakee County Teen Idols.
The Partnership also is endorsing the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth’s Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV which is being sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The campaign calls upon colleges, universities, athletic conferences and the NCAA to stop taking money from alcohol advertisers.
For adults interested in assessing their own drinking habits, an on-line screening tool will be available on the KAN-I HELP Information Network’s web site at www.kan-i-help.org. The screening tool is purely informational and not diagnostic. Participants remain anonymous. It will be accessible throughout the month of April. A referral list to area services also is available.
For information about any of the activities planned during Alcohol Awareness Month, contact the Pledge for Life Partnership at 933-4606.