Superior high DECA project targets drinkingTwo Superior High School marketing students are challenging their peers to “Think — Don’t Drink.”
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Two Superior High School marketing students are challenging their peers to “Think — Don’t Drink.”
Teen drinking is an issue that DECA members — an association of marketing students — haven’t tackled before.
“We thought it was a problem with our own peers,” said Superior senior Ali Bergstrom, who launched the public relations campaign with fellow senior Gerald Mikel. “We saw through the years some students not making good decisions.”
Instead of pushing the issue to the side, Mikel said, they decided to get it out in the open. Not just adults are worried about underage alcohol use.
“We’re thinking about it too, and we care about our community as much as teachers and parents do,” Bergstrom said. “We want to work to make a change at Superior High School.”
During a program Thursday in the school’s performing arts center, the DECA duo encouraged sophomores to make the choice not to drink. Their presentation included insight from local experts — Superior Community Policing Officer Bonnie Johnson and Douglas County District Attorney Dan Blank — on the possible consequences of alcohol use.
“It will not only affect you now but in the future,” Bergstrom said. Underage drinking can damage brain cells, impact scholarship opportunities, lead to fines, loss of driving privileges and criminal records, damage livers and even kill. The theater grew silent when Johnson flashed a picture of a car, torn almost in two, on the screen. Two Superior high school students died in that 2002 one-vehicle crash.
“Both had been drinking,” Johnson said.
Wisconsin is No. 1 in alcohol consumption, binge drinking and the number of taverns per capita, Blank told the students.
“That’s not something we want to be No. 1 in,” he said.
According to a 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 74.4 percent of high school students in Wisconsin have consumed at least one alcoholic drink; 41.3 percent of high school students statewide reported having a drink within the past 30 days; 25.2 percent admitted to binge drinking — having five or more drinks within a couple hours — in the past 30 days.
Last year, the Superior Police Department issued 202 underage drinking citations; another 27 were issued by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department. Fines can range from $50 to $767 per offense, Johnson said.
Blank called alcohol the No. 1 gateway drug. Johnson urged the students to take pride in who they are and not use alcohol or drugs to deal with a bad situation.
“It just makes problems bigger,” she said.
Use of alcohol can fuel violent situations. In his 21 years as district attorney, Blank said, he has prosecuted about 1,000 cases a year. Of those 21,000 cases, he estimated about 15,000 of them had alcohol involvement. He gave details about real-life cases in which alcohol use led to violence.
Bergstrom and Mikel are doing a terrific job, according to Jane Larson, a certified prevention professional working with the high school.
“Everybody’s pretty pleased about them taking on this particular project,” she said, and the two have done their research. The presentation wasn’t judgmental. Instead, students focused on the risks of alcohol use. That’s what will make an impact on teens, according to Larson.
“As perceived risk goes up, use goes down,” she said.
Superior High School Counselor Michelle Baddin gave the DECA students credit for tackling the subject.
“They’re doing projects where they as students see a need at school and in the community,” she said, and providing valuable education from a different viewpoint. Because the message is coming from students, Baddin said, students listen to it differently.
Bergstrom said that they decided to focus their presentation on younger students in an effort to stop them in their tracks, before they start to drink. The session ended with an award-winning video that showed students standing around a casket.
“What would you say to save a friend?” scrolled across the screen as student voices talked about how they knew they shouldn’t have been drinking. The short video ended with a graveyard scene.
“I hope it has an impact on them,” Bergstrom said. “We don’t want to wait until tragedy strikes to have someone speak out about this.”
She and Mikel will give their presentation to a freshman Keystone class this week. They’ve distributed nearly 40 T-shirts with their slogan, “Think — Don’t Drink” and placed informational packets at the school guidance office about the effects of alcohol and resources available to help. The two set up an informational booth during parent conferences at the high school this week, hung posters in the halls and sent a letter to every advisory, or home room, in the high school.
“So everyone will hear the message,” Bergstrom said.
The seniors won’t be graded on the project, but it will be presented at DECA competition. All five of the previous SHS public relations projects have advanced to national DECA competition, according to advisor Paul Zollver. Two — Adopt a Beach in 1994 and Life or Meth in 2006 — earned first place in the nation.