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PHS program looks at underage drinking

PRINCETON — Underage drinking. Is it a problem? If so, what can be done about it?

With April designated as Alcohol Awareness Month and in light of the fact that prom is nearing, Princeton High School has partnered with the Community Partners Against Substance Abuse (CPASA) to bring a free program about the dangers of underage drinking to PHS students and their parents. The program is set for 6:30 to 8 p.m. Monday at PHS Sally Skinner Council Auditorium. The Parent University program series is funded through a 21st Century Grant.

Ariel Van Cleave, PHS site coordinator for the grant program, said Monday's program will provide parents/guardians with tips on ways to reduce the incidence of underage and binge drinking and will also provide information to ensure parents are acting as responsible role models. The program will be led by Ted Penesis, representing the Illinois Liquor Commission (ILC), and Laura Murphy and Lee Roupas with the ILC's Industry Education Division.

On Tuesday, Van Cleave said next week's Parent University program is an important one for both parents and teens because it will create a safe place in which to start a conversation about underage drinking.

"I think there are times, for example, when parents allow their teen to drink under their own roof because they think it's safer than letting them go elsewhere. I don't think teens are ready for that responsibility or truly understand the consequences associated with having a few drinks or the danger of getting into a car with friends after that," Van Cleave said. "There's a statistic that states every year 5,000 people under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking. It's our job with this Parent University to get that type of information out there and hopefully prevent something horrible from happening in our own community."

Monday's program is not only for those families who have an underage drinking situation in their homes, but also for those families who don't, Van Cleave said. The idea is to work together as families and as a community to help anyone who might be dealing with an underage drinking problem, she said.

"This is an issue where we all have to be in it together," Van Cleave said.   

On Tuesday, CPASA coordinator Dawn Conerton said research shows alcohol use by persons under 21 years is a definite public health problem but not one that is limited to Bureau County.

"Underage drinking is everywhere, not just here," Conerton said. "We need to make people aware of the dangers of having young people drink. For one thing, it is against the law to provide alcohol to anyone under the age of 21. But also, young people and their parents need to know and understand the personal consequences of underage drinking."

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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