Local students from three Hamilton County school districts voiced their opinions about substance abuse at a community forum on Monday at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Webster City.
Fifty randomly selected students accepted invitations from their principals to spend the day at the 2012 Hamilton County Youth Summit where they talked about underage drinking and substance abuse, according to organizers.
Topics of discussion included:
Students from three Hamilton County high schools gathered Monday for a youth forum.
Overall culture of use
Key transitions that put kids at risk
Partying in Hamilton County
Friends with a drinking problem
Access to alcohol
Enforcement of consequences
Students gave short summaries of their discussions and recommendations in an afternoon forum to approximately 35 community leaders and parents in attendance. One of the consistent messages from the students was that adults have a big impact on whether students choose to drink or not. They felt that each generation of parents had gotten more lenient and that parents' values and own behaviors made a big impact. One student noted that when parents allow their youths to drink, respected adults like coaches can influence their student athletes to stay drug free.
Parents play a big role in access to alcohol. Students felt that most students get their alcohol from parents, whether they know about it or not. One student's perception was that generally students were not drinking beer but were drinking hard liquor obtained from parents instead.
Another consistent message was that school should have drug prevention curriculum throughout the high school years, according to organizers. Students reported that the fifth-grade DARE program was not enough.
"Fifth graders don't think they will ever be tempted to use drugs," said one student.
"Information can be taught in biology classes, on how it affects our bodies throughout the high school years."
Students repeatedly stated that current consequences were not effective in preventing underage drinking and needed to be increased. Some wondered if having alternative consequences for students who did not have the threat of removal of extracurricular activities should be considered. They also wanted parents to have consequences for allowing youth to drink. One student suggested that parents should be required to take drug education classes when their child had problems with alcohol.
Students also said that consequences were not being applied consistently. Policies should be followed and students need to hear that consequences are being applied as they are written.
The youth summit was initiated by Power UP Youth. Power Up YOUth is a coalition of individuals and agencies working together to reduce substance abuse and other risky behaviors in Hamilton County. The youth summit was brought about through a partnership with Community and Family Resources with funds from the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Strategic Prevention Framework-State Incentive Grant. Coalition members who helped to make the youth summit successful include Heather Kierzek of the Webster City School District; Shelly Lumsden, Sarah Miller, Tina Coleman, Korryn Johnson, all of Community Family Resources; and Tiffany Larson, of Building Families; Kelly Cahalan, Hamilton County Public Health; and Bryan Whaley, 4-H Extension; and Heather Toyer, a parent.
Kathy Getting, director of Power Up YOUth said that recruitment of students by school staff and the presence of community leaders contributed greatly to the success of the summit. The coalition hopes to make the Youth Summit an annual event, she said.
The notes from small group discussions and evaluation forms were taken by Drs. Mark Grey and Michele Devlin, who will analyze the data and share the results with Power Up YOUth at their coalition meeting on January 18th. The Coalition will then look at how best to match prevention interventions to local conditions. Anyone is welcome to attend Power Up YOUth meetings and the SPF SIG Committee meeting. The Power Up YOUth meeting is Jan 17 at noon in the Hamilton County Public Health Conference room at 509 Division Street.