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Coalition battles underage drinking

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Stacy Vogel
November 25, 2007
— Looking for alcohol?

Just ask Edgerton teens. They know exactly where to find it.


“It’s really easy to get a 21-year-old to get alcohol for you,” said Lillian Dypold, 14. Lillian said she doesn’t drink but knows plenty of classmates who do.


Other teens said they know kids who steal alcohol from their parents. Some parents even provide it for their children and their children’s friends, they said.


“A greater portion of teens drink” than don’t in Edgerton, said Ashley Pirel, 14.


The numbers support her claim. A 2005 anonymous survey found Edgerton teens were more likely to use alcohol, get drunk, binge drink and drive after drinking than their peers in the rest of Rock County.


Among Edgerton High School seniors, 63 percent reported drinking in the past month, and 53 percent reported getting drunk at least once in the last two weeks.


The numbers horrified some community members and motivated them to take action. The Edgerton Coalition for a Healthy Community was born.


The coalition—made of parents, educators and community leaders—will examine any issue affecting Edgerton’s youth, but its first target is underage drinking, said Erin Springstead, Edgerton High School guidance counselor and a member of the coalition.


In August, the coalition received a $75,000 mentoring grant through Partners in Prevention-Rock County. It hired a staff person this month to help it establish structure and follow federal prevention practices, said Kate Baldwin, executive director of Partners in Prevention.


Members don’t know yet why underage drinking is so common in Edgerton, but they have some ideas, Springstead said.


“It’s an adolescent issue in general, but I think also when there’s a culture of acceptance, it’s easier for that issue to become more prevalent,” she said.


Many parents condone drinking in Edgerton, often because they did it when they were young, Lillian said. She is the only youth member of the coalition and its co-chairwoman.


Other teen agree with her assessment.


Nick Livick, 15, said he knows of parents who provide alcohol for parties. One 14-year-old girl told of a classmate whose mother held her hair while she threw up after getting drunk recently.


The classmate and her mother didn’t seem to take the incident seriously, she said.


The coalition has to convince adults that underage drinking is a big deal and not a rite of passage, Springstead said.


“We want to target not just the youths but the parents and the community, so we’re looking at the culture of acceptance rather than just adolescents making poor decisions,” she said.


But the coalition also has to offer alternatives to young people, she said. The same survey that documented underage drinking in Edgerton also found that only 22 percent of students thought Edgerton values its youth.


“Kids who don’t feel valued find other ways to get that value, and some of the ways that they do it are not necessarily good for them,” Baldwin said.


The coalition will address that aspect at a free “Family and Community Town Supper” on Monday, Dec. 10. The dinner will offer the viewpoints of Edgerton teens—including Lillian, Ashley and Nick—and promote table discussions between adults and youths.


Organizers are hoping the dinner will improve adult-youth relationships, create awareness about problems youths face and plant the seeds for youth programming.


“On some level, we have to engage students in other positive things, whether that’s providing more recreational activities or after-school clubs and activities,” Springstead said. “The school and the community is responsible for that as well as parents.”


If you go

What: Family and Community Town Supper: Creating a Community that Values Youth. The dinner, hosted by the Edgerton Coalition for a Healthy Community, will offer teens a chance to talk about the youth experience in Edgerton and encourage discussions between teens and adults. A group of Edgerton teens helped plan the dinner and will lead a panel discussion.


When: 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10.


Where: Tri-County Community Center, 112 N. Swift St.


More info: The dinner is free, but participants should register by Wednesday, Dec. 5. Call Erin Springstead at (608) 884-9402, Ext. 234, or e-mail erin.springstead@Edgerton.k12.wi.us.

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