Town-hall meeting at AE addresses underage drinking
TWINING — Underage drinking has the potential to lead to teen pregnancies, early alcoholism and in the most extreme cases, untimely deaths. That’s why Lori Jacques, counselor at Arenac Eastern High School, has organized a town hall meeting on Sept. 18 to tackle the issue.
“If you look at the MIPHY (Michigan Profile for Healthy Youth), there is a problem in Arenac County with underage drinking,” Jacques said. “Too many kids are binge drinking too early in life.”
The MIPHY is a survey that confidentially questions students on the rate of alcohol and drug use and fitness. The Arenac County MIPHY results on the test taken last spring showed by seventh grade, 42.2 percent of students had drank alcohol in their lifetime, 21.1 percent had their first drink before age 13 and 20 percent had drank recently; ninth grade results reported 69.5 percent of students had drank at least once in their lifetime, while 27.4 had a drink before age 13 and 40.7 percent had drank recently; for eleventh graders, 79.2 percent had drank at least once in their lifetime, 23.4 before age 13 and 40.5 recently.
Jacques says the town hall meeting, which is being held during a school district meet-and-greet/parents’ conference, is basically aimed to help parents be proactive in preventing underage alcohol abuse.
“We want the parents to be aware that they need to be talking to their kids and make them aware about the negative consequences of alcohol,” Jacques said. “The parents need to be chaperones and know what their kids are doing everyday. … The best that we can do is educate the kids.”
But Jacques says parents can’t do it alone.
“It has to be the whole community,” she said.
Jacques also acknowledged that for parents, it’s often difficult to keep a watchful eye on their children without seeming to invasive. But she did say if parents talk often with their children, praise them when they do something well and maintain a healthy relationship, the children will have higher self esteem and not bend into peer pressure that would lead them to drink as well as keep a relationship with parents that is full of communication.
However, even when parents and children do speak often and openly, Jacques says it’s still hard to keep teens away from alcohol.
“A problem with Arenac County is that there’s nothing to do,” she said. “We need to find things for the kids to do at the schools. The problem with that is the schools keep getting less and less money.
“There’s a lot of poverty in Arenac County too.”
Jacques is trying to give kids more options, though, and she isn’t alone. Also speaking at the town hall meeting will be Sheriff Ronald Bouldin and AE Guidance Counselor Allen Pauly.
But with three speakers, the time frame of the town hall meeting, 5-5:30 p.m., may cause some difficulties in allowing audience interaction, since a question and answer session is planned for the meeting as well.
“We wanted it to be longer but then they (school) were afraid parents would be bored,” Jacques said. She added, though, that a longer, larger town hall meeting regarding alcohol abuse prevention among youths is planned for Oct. 15 at Standish-Sterling Central High School.
For more information on the Arenac-Eastern Town Hall meeting, call 989-867-4231.