Students tackle underage drinking in Hanover

By Sunni Blevins - bio | email

HANOVER, VA (WWBT) - Hanover County students are sharing a message about the dangers of underage drinking through pictures and video. The effort called "Picture Me Alcohol Free."

Statistics show that colleges lose 25 percent of their freshman class to dropouts using alcohol and drugs.

That's exactly the type of thing a group of Hanover youth is working to prevent.

This video was produced by teens for teens -- it's designed to educate students about having alcohol and drug free fun.

"Unfortunately society has presented a picture that the only way to have fun is with drugs and alcohol," said Susan Robertson with ICARE Coalition.

"Kids bragging about drinking, we see it on facebook, we see it on social networks," said parent Dan Dolan. "It's almost a badge of honor, I don't want my kids to have to go through this."

Thursday night, a group of Hanover County youth illustrated the negative effects of underage drinking and substance abuse through a special photo exhibit and interactive media presentation.

"Picture Me Alcohol Free!" is an initiative of two teen groups.

Teens Care Too is a youth-led group interested in promoting wellness and healthy choices and 7th Up allows high schoolers to share anti-substance abuse messages with middle-schoolers.

Students worked with health and prevention experts when creating this DVD.

Produced by 7th Up, the film showcases why teens should choose to be alcohol-free and rely on "natural highs" instead.

"We are trying to show kids that there is more fun in life than drinking and that's what needs to be understood," Dolan said.

Students also took these photographs, using a strategy called photo voice. That's when artists use photography to document social issues.

"What the kids did over the course of several months was went out in the community and took pictures of things that they either felt encouraged or discouraged underage drinking, for example you'll see pictures of parks, soccer nets, you may see pictures of beer cans," Dolan said.

Project leaders say Hanover is the first county in the nation to develop a project like this focused on underage drinking and drug use.

Organizers say it's an important message about a real and dangerous issue.

"There's so much pressure in the community encouraging young people to drink and we are trying to present a different picture," Robertson said.

Project organizers will continue to work to raise awareness and help parents and children better communicate.

This latest project was funded through a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Copyright 2010 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.