It has been traditional that certain events in high schools have acted as “rites of passage” when students may use alcohol and drugs either for the first time, use in excess to celebrate or feel that this is the time that they are expected to use. The fall is one of those times. Freshman are new to the high school campuses, seniors are celebrating their last year on campus while feeling the stress of planning their future while sophomores and juniors are fitting in between.
The “BECAUSE WE CAN” campaign was designed by a committee made up of students and adults and launched during homecoming season. The campaign provides information and awareness intended to empower students and parents by shattering the perceptions that we have about the number of students who use. The standard perception is that most students use drugs or alcohol when surveys indicate that nearly three-quarters of the students do not use alcohol*(2010 Student Behavioral Survey—10th grade 30 day usage). Look for the posters and banners “We Choose…BECAUSE WE CAN…Because We Have”!
The fall “kick-off” activities are scheduled at each comprehensive high school and will continue throughout the year. Check back for follow-ups or follow us on Facebook.
Thank you to the VALLEY TIMES and reporter Kristen Forbes for following this important campaign.
Aloha homecoming kicks off with alcohol-free tailgate event
By Kristen Forbes
The Beaverton Valley Times, Oct 6, 2010, Updated 14.6 hours ago
Axkana Rios (from left), Kate Schwartz, Pablo Rios and Wollixpa Rios are four high school students who happen to not drink – and according to student surveys, they’re not in the minority.
“We can either shut up and not do anything, or we can do something to bring awareness,” says Aloha High School senior Wollixpa Rios of her choice to join forces with Beaverton Together to advocate awareness about and alternatives to teenage drinking.
For Westview senior Kate Schwartz, the reason is more personal.
“My best friend was in rehab, and I felt like a lot of my friends were kind of losing themselves to this,” she says.
Beaverton Together started in 1990. It is a grassroots, volunteer-run, nonprofit, community anti-drug coalition whose main purpose is to promote safe and drug-free lifestyles for the youth of Beaverton.
Through its campaigns and activities, the organization tries to bridge the gap between reality and perception when it comes to teenage drinking. For example, it has been consistently shown in student surveys that teens think their peers are drinking more than they actually are. The perception is that the non-drinkers are in the vast minority, but the statistics show otherwise. Knowing they’re actually in the majority could help the non-drinking students make more informed decisions about alcohol.
Another aim of the organization is to educate parents. The “they’re going to do it anyway” mentality often leads to parent-sanctioned parties where alcohol is served. Beaverton Together shows parents alternatives and informs them of the legal ramifications of allowing and serving alcohol to high school students.
This year, a group of four high school seniors came together to brainstorm ideas to show their peers they have choices. Axkana Rios admits that he initially thought the idea of forming a small student committee seemed futile.
“At first, I thought it was going to be a waste of time with such a small group,” he says. “I thought that kids are going to drink anyway, so the focus should be on drinking responsibly. But then I went and learned that there is a large majority who don’t drink. So, I want to keep that number big, lead by example and pledge not to drink.”
The four seniors on the committee already had packed activity schedules — they belong to other clubs, sports and teams, and several of them have at least one job. Still, they have made a commitment and typically spend at least two hours a week brainstorming and planning ideas, slogans and activities.
For Aloha senior Pablo Rios, keeping busy is a way of life.
“I like to be active and have something to do in my spare time,” he says. “I like volunteer work. Also, I wanted to bring awareness to my school and tell them that they have choices — not just what the cool kids do.”
The goal of the committee is not to tell students not to drink, but rather to let everyone know that they have other options. Their Because We Can campaign encourages students to stop and think about their decisions.
“For me, the campaign isn’t meant to stop people from drinking,” says Schwartz. “If people want to rebel and go out drinking, they’re going to do it. But it’s about planting that seed in their head, and maybe further down the line they’ll think about it.”
“A lot of people perceive this as us trying to stop them or trying to be authority figures, and they already distrust authority. We’re not trying to tell people what to do. We’re just trying to bring awareness,” says Pablo.
The efforts of the student committee can be found on the Aloha campus, from the posters and banners they created to the silicone bracelets students are wearing to pledge not to drink.
The Homecoming season is the current focus of the campaign. Before the Homecoming game between Aloha and Westview this past Friday, they hosted an alcohol-free tailgate party. This will be repeated before other area Homecoming games to give students an alternative to drinking. After the dances, students are encouraged to think about their options, too. Many Aloha students planned on skipping the parties to instead go out for a post-dance meal or bowling.
“Perceptions are not reality,” Wollixpa says of what she’s learned from this project.
Pablo says he hopes the campaign encourages students to think about more than just drinking. It’s not about telling them what’s right or wrong; it’s about letting them know they have more than one option when making decisions.
More information about Beaverton Together can be found at beavertontogether.org or on the group’s Facebook page.
(Kristen Forbes is a freelance writer. To view her blog, visit krissymick.blogspot.com.)
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