Small crowd, big ideas

Teens-only forum about underage drinking held Monday

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Underage drinking in Steamboat Springs is not going to stop, local teens said, but it can be reduced.

The seven Steamboat Springs High School students who participated in a teens-only forum about underage drinking at Centennial Hall on Monday night said a lack of available activities is a significant cause of alcohol use among teenagers.

Volunteers interested in working with Grand Futures Prevention Coalition can call 879-6188 or e-mail Director Sandy Visnack at: sandy@grandfuture...

Planning more activities, especially large events sponsored by city officials or local businesses, would provide an outlet for teens looking for things to do on weekends, the students said.

"If there's something going on, usually, you don't drink," said junior Bailey Moore, 16. "The city puts on really fun events, but they don't do them enough."

Moore said that at planned events such as bowling nights and dances, alcohol is not as present as it is on nights when high-schoolers are thinking: "Hmm, what should we do?"

Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, a Routt County substance abuse prevention organization, hosted the forum. The idea for the event came out of a Nov. 3 public forum on underage drinking, said coalition director Sandy Visnack.

"We wanted the youth to have more of a voice, " she said, adding that teens at the Nov. 3 forum may have been hesitant to speak because of adults who were present.

A pair of 22-year-old

Steam--boat residents, Stephanie Murphy and Drew Stachnik, facilitated Monday night's discussion. Visnack came only to drop off pizza and sodas, and left before the discussion began.

Students at the forum suggested "open mic" talent nights, movie showings, more dances and more events like the Battle of the Bands --an annual contest -- as possibilities for events that would draw crowds.

Stachnik, a former resident assistant at Colorado Mountain College who has worked with Grand Futures in the past, suggested the students create thorough "business proposals" of their ideas before marketing them to the community.

"Those would be great skills to develop," Stachnik said.

All the students agreed that for parents, teachers and law officers, trying to completely stop teens from using alcohol could prove impossible.

"I think they're focusing too much on getting kids to not drink," said junior Alexie Rusk, 17. "That's not going to happen."

"The main thing is the drinking and driving," said sophomore Marc Makens, 15. "That has to stop for sure."

Nearly all the students at Monday's forum are in the high school's leadership class, an elective for about 30 students who plan and organize school events.

Stachnik and Murphy, a city employee who grew up in Steamboat, said they intend to speak to the leadership class about making some of the activity ideas expressed at the forum a reality.

"But it needs to be completely headed-up and motivated by you guys," Stachnik said. "You definitely have to take self-responsibility as adults."

The Nov. 3 community forum came after a police compliance check showed nine of 11 liquor stores in Steamboat sold alcohol to a minor.

Visnack said a similar forum, but for parents only, is being planned for January. She said she hopes to host public discussions in the future.

"We hope it's an ongoing thing, not just a one-night thing," Visnack said.

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