Teen drinking and partying was front and center at the April 22 Jefferson County Communities That Care Youth Voices event. For the past four-and-half-months, 35 high school and college students have …
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Jeffco Communities That Care is a county-sponsored organization consisting of 100 stakeholders, community leaders youth that work to address substance abuse and other problems among Jeffco youth. Each year, the program hires dozens of students to be interns and work on proposals for addressing those challenges.
Teen drinking and partying was front and center at the April 22 Jefferson County Communities That Care Youth Voices event.
For the past four-and-half-months, 35 high school and college students have been at work on projects that give them the opportunity to propose and solutions to problems that affect teens in the county. The students came from mostly from Jeffco high schools, including Lakewood High, Golden High, Green Mountain, Arvada West, Chatfield and Jefferson virtual academy. Some also attend CU Boulder.
During the conference, those students had the opportunity to present their proposals, which dealt specifically with how to reduce teen partying and provide more constructive places for teens to spend time on weekends. Here is a closer look at the proposals:
“How can we reduce the amount of house parties and underage drinking in Jeffco?” That was the question that led this group to the answer of a social hosting laws, a set of policies that hold adults responsible for underage drinking that occurs on properties they own, rent, or otherwise control.
According to the presentation, the law’s potential benefits would include encouraging those who control property to prevent house parties and providing law enforcement with a tool to restrict house parties without having to meet the higher bar of criminal prosecution.
The students also argued that adults would be discouraged from purchasing alcohol for teens if they knew they could be held responsible while underage drinkers would be spared from a mark on their criminal record that could possibly impact their future.
“As youth in Jeffco, we believe social hosting laws will shift the norms in the county so that more adults and teens will disapprove of under age drinking,” said one of the students in a video shown during the presentation.
The students also cited a survey conducted at a youth town hall conducted of 185 Jeffco students earlier this year in which 85% of those students said they are aware of peers drinking alcohol at private homes.
There was also discussion about interviews the teens did with several police officers, the majority of whom indicated that current strategies are not effectively reducing youth substances misuse. The students said an “overwhelming majority of officers they spoke with would use a social hosting ticket option if one were available.”
Students also argued that the implementation of social hosting policy would need to be accompanied with more efforts to educate adults about the dangers associated with teen drinking, including sex assault and car crashes.
“Data collected at the town hall on Feb. 28 found that the majority of teens believe adults give youth alcohol because they don’t care,” said team member Sarah Driscoll. “Adults can show teens they care by being proactive and not supplying alcohol.”
When David Yoon move to Jeffco from South Korea in 2008, he was most surprised by the differences he observed between how American and Korean teens spend their weekend nights.
In Korea, most youth spent there time in public facilities, such as indoor gyms and gaming stations that were open until 5 p.m. or 6 p.m.
“For me, there was no time to feel loneliness or boredom,” he said in a video that was part of the presentation.
But social norms are different in Jeffco, where six in 10 of the youth responded in the town hall responded that they spend none or only some of their time in activities that are “meaningful.”
That’s why this policy group said they propose that “Jeffco youth be given access to teen-based activities and safe spaces like those David was able to experience in South Korea.”
During the presentation, members of the group argued that existing facilities for teens are not sufficient because of a lack of awareness among teens and a lack of transportation for teens to access them.
“We as Jeffco youth strongly believe increasing the number of safe spaces, making the already-existing spaces more accessible and increasing the youth’s awareness of them will be the key solution for our problems,” said team member and Lakewood High student Kutad Duzgun.
The group also found that it is critical that teen spaces foster a sense of inclusivity, which they suggested could be facilitated by hiring youth from diverse backgrounds in leadership positions.
“In order to accomplish a flexible gathering place, we need your help to keep places like libraries and rec centers open later,” said another team member in the video, who was not identified.
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