Thursday, May 12, 2005

Youth Advocacy Committee

Youth Advocacy met this morning and decided that a next step for our committee would be to get some teens involved in helping develop drug/alcohol free social alternatives for kids. The mission of our committee is

To help kids make healthy choices by:

  • creating mentorship's
  • providing social outlets
  • encouraging parent-kid dialog
  • identifying leadership opportunities
  • offering Christian youth alternatives
  • establishing positive values
  • defining "a good time" without drugs or alcohol

We would like to get the student government at East and CHHS to support and advertise a meeting regarding this subject before school is out. Tuesday, May 24 or Wednesday, May 25 at lunch would work for our committee. We would need a room, some posters around school and several announcements over the PA. Ginny and Maxecine will make the contacts to set up the focus group.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Parents must become more vigilant

Parents must become more vigilant
Guest column

Parents of Chapel Hill-Carrboro teens, put on your detective hats and be very wary if you plan to have a teen party or even a few of your teens’ friends at your home. The party season is about to get into full swing with the Chapel Hill High prom on Saturday, followed by graduation and end of school social events.

The good news is that our police, like those in many other communities around the nation, are taking a strong and more thorough position on teen underage and illegal substance use. They are, as well, holding responsible the parents in whose homes the illegal substance use occurs. It doesn’t matter if the parents don’t know about it, don’t condone it and don’t provide it. Further, if you are not home, you are still legally responsible for what happens on your property.

The school board, with Stephanie Willis’ leadership as district health coordinator, also has passed a new set of guidelines to make the policies and consequences consistent school to school within the district. Also, there are consequences at school for illegal activity in the community. (See policy on the district Web site at

The bad news is that community norms change slowly; parental awareness is just beginning. Many of us are slow learners when it comes to handling substance use and teens. My own ability to handle this aspect of parenting was filled with many mistakes and many points of being utterly confused and unsure. I wanted to share what I and others on the CHHS Drug Alcohol Task Force had learned, and thus the inspiration came for writing the booklet, “Parent Power: Preventing Substance Use Before It Starts.” This booklet may be freely distributed, put on any school’s Web site and can be downloaded from the CHHS PTSA Web site (

More bad news is that in our community it is likely that the teens themselves will be the last to change. Many of our teens are absolutely determined to use many different types of substances before, during and after school as well as during lunch, secretly in their homes and at any party they can find on the weekend. Not only do they sneak vodka into water and fruit drinks right under the watchful eyes of their teachers, but also they are likely to do this and much more at a gathering at your house.

A 16th birthday party in my neighborhood on April 22 ended with the parents receiving a criminal summons for “contributing to the delinquency of a minor.”

Hopefully, all the facts will come out after the legal proceedings are over. These were not negligent parents. They are, in fact, very conscientious ones who had clearly and firmly communicated the party rules: “no alcohol, drugs or sex.” They were proactive and did everything within their knowledge base to provide a substance free party.

It was the first teen party they had hosted. Neither these parents nor many others (still learning the hard way through trial and error) knew that being proactive, firm and clear is not enough. Vigilance by constantly policing inside and out at random, frequent intervals is also evidently necessary. Being distrustful and suspicious seems to help, too.

At this now-famous party the uninvited guests outside, who were making enough noise for the police to be called, were trespassing as well as drinking and drugging. They were asked by the teen host to leave and were not allowed inside. He did not, however, tell his parents when they checked in on the party.

Dropping in on parties to which you are not invited and don’t know the host is common for teens who “party chase” in order to use substances and socialize. They will find homes, apartments, a park or the woods where they can use or where there are no adults around, unless they are the “cool” ones who provide or allow it.

One night out of 365 our community comes together with a whopper of a substance-free celebration for teens, Project Graduation. We need to do something about the other 364 days a year. We need to provide vigilantly supervised places for teens to hang out with fun activities. We need to establish a culture that supports and values teenage substance free entertainment. Slowly, they will want to come and it will become a community norm.

In the meantime, we need to do something about all the unhealthy factors in American society that put U.S. teens in second place in the world in substance use. What group places first? U.S. college freshmen with an average of 54 gallons of alcohol consumed per person in a year. This is an equally upsetting statistic.

The most concerning questions are why are U.S. teens so desperate to use and what can we do to stop this epidemic?

Join with us and help bring change. E-mail and join The Committee for Drug and Alcohol Free Teens, which has expanded to 60 members and five subcommittees. Or, at CHHS, join the CHHS Drug Alcohol Task Force by e-mailing The task force is looking for donations or grant money to run a second printing of “Parent Power” as well as a Spanish translation. For information e-mail

Lynne Johnston is a member of the CHHS Drug Alcohol Task Force.

The Facts About Youth & Alcohol

Click here to view the informational
ad printed in the Chapel Hill News.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Coalition Follow-up


I have returned from NYC where I enjoyed a three-day stay and watching my very talented daughter perform. She is destined for stardom.

Enough bragging. Thank you all so much for attending Thursday's first Coalition meeting and for all the ideas you generated in sub-committee. I am delighted and humbled to be in the presence of such knowledgeable and hard-working people.

The majority signed up to work on Committees, outstanding. Some of you didn't because it wasn't appropriate or your involvement has limitations. This is fine, too. We understand those in attendance have varied levels of commitment and appreciate support at whatever level we can get it.

Isabel and I plan to be intimately involved in each of the sub-committees and one of us, if not both, will attend each meeting. I will be contacting the Committee co-chairs to find out when the next meeting is scheduled and provide them with the list of who's who.

Two of the Committee's have already scheduled their meetings:

* Education Committee (chaired by Wanda Boone and Dr Tina LaPage) is set for May 27th at 12:30 pm
* Youth Advocacy (chaired by Ginny Guilfoile and Maxeine Mitchell) is set for May 12th at 8:30 am

Click here for a table with all the contact info (and corrections, are there more?) It is divided-up into members of each sub-committee.

I am deeply grateful for your time and desire to make a difference.