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Underage Drinking Prevention Is Town Hall Topic
0416 Saul G.
Sixth grader, Saul Garcia wrote his own script to share with the guests at the Friday Night Live meeting. VIRGINIA STILL/The News

A town hall meeting was in order on Thursday, April 10 in the cafeteria at Cardozo Middle School (CMS) to discuss the prevention of underage drinking in the community.

The After School Program (ASP) Friday Night Live (FNL) students, ASP Advisor, Angela Bailey-Gabrie, and Liz Elizondo, Program Coordinator, Center for Human Services hosted the meeting that included parents, students, educators, and city officials.

“The main goal of the meeting is to discuss underage drinking in Riverbank and brainstorm on some ways to help prevent it from happening,” said Bailey-Gabrie. “They (students) educated the audience on ‘shoulder tapping’ which is a way that youth access alcohol by asking adults to buy it for them.”

California Friday Night Live Partnership was developed in 1984 in Sacramento by the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs and the California Office of Traffic Safety. According to the website, it began as a pilot program dedicated to reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by teen motorists driving under the influence of alcohol and other drugs.

“The Town Hall Meeting was conducted by the children from Cardozo Middle School and they did a fabulous job,” stated Mayor Richard O’Brien. “They informed the group about what they know about underage drinking.”

The students presented the guests with a video involving youth and alcohol. There were approximately 25 people in attendance that were broken up into three small groups to discuss the following three questions: What kinds of problems are we seeing in our community related to underage drinking; Is alcohol easy for youth to get and why or why not?; What policies does our community have that discourage underage drinking?

During the group discussions the participants also conjured up ideas for next year’s events like talking to local merchants about signs in their store fronts, placement of alcohol in stores, educating the community about fines and consequences if alcohol is provided to minors and much more.

“We discussed different methods children were obtaining alcohol,” explained O’Brien. “We also discussed methods to curb underage drinking.”

That also includes a mayoral task force in conjunction with Cardozo Middle School and engaging youths at risk.

Attendees were also asked to fill out a “Count Me In” card so that organizers would know which participants to count on for their assistance during the next school year regarding underage drinking.

“I do believe underage drinking is affecting our youth, not just in Riverbank but everywhere,” stated Bailey-Gabrie. “Alcohol is the number one cause of death to teenagers in our country.

“It leads to suicide, fatal car accidents and other accidental deaths. It also is a huge factor into rape and sexual assault among our young people as well.”

Light refreshments were offered, guests were given informational materials and several ideas were shared among the groups.