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For high school students in the Ozarks, prom night is coming up quickly. Some local organizations have already begun to warn young people in the area about the dangers of substance abuse on that exciting night. KSMU’s Royal Yates has details.
Attorney Kurt Larson educates high school students every year about drinking and driving with a program called Safe and Sober Prom Night. As prom night approaches, Larson presents thousands of students with the dangers of drunken driving and stories of families that have been distraught by its results.
The program has seen an overwhelming response from the community since it began six years ago. More than 25 businesses and organizations donate over $160,000 every year to provide this program to public schools in the area free of cost. One organization that supports the program every year is the Community Partnership of the Ozarks.
Community Partnership of the Ozarks not only supports this program, but plans several of its own events every year to educate students and parents in the community about the dangers of substance abuse and driving under the influence.
Chris Davis is the director of community prevention for the organization, and he says they promote the program around prom night because the celebration can be very tempting and dangerous for students.
“That’s one of the highest risk times for teen abuse of substances, so the whole goal is to get the kids to pledge and the parents to sign a pledge for the kids not to use substances that night, and for the parents to not provide substances for underage drinking parties and so forth,” Davis said.
Community Partnership didn’t start planning and supporting larger programs like these until it began the Underage Drinking Task Force in the year 2000. The task force now plans events to educate the community about the very real consequences of underage drinking, drinking and driving, and substance abuse in general.
One of their biggest events will be on April 13th. On that night, Community Partnership will host a town hall meeting about the consequences of students abusing alcohol. A panel of speakers will be at the meeting to tell personal stories of how alcohol abuse has affected their lives. Also at the meeting will be Miami Heat player Wayne Simien to speak about how avoiding harmful substances like drugs and alcohol has helped him reach his goals.
Davis says this is a great chance for people in the area to get involved and take on more responsibility.
He says, “Where it used to be more of people pointing fingers to who they think the problem is, or why this is a problem, I think the community has realized that this is a community problem – a community issue – and it’s going to take the entire community to really have a positive effect.”
The Safe and Sober Prom Night program will begin visiting area public schools April 1st.
For KSMU News, I’m Royal Yates.