Steamboat Springs Justine Warner, Anya Salzgeber and Joel Graham are worried about fellow students who drink alcohol.
They are worried that some of their peers would rather get in a car with a drunken driver than risk getting in trouble with police. They also are worried that students feel pressured to drink just to fit in.
But they're glad that at Thursday night's community forum about underage alcohol use, someone finally listened to their concerns.
"My main concern is that students get into the party scene at a much younger age now," Graham said. "I think it's exponentially worse."
Graham's concerns and dozens more were explored by a group of panelists, parents, students, community members, liquor store owners, city government officials and law enforcement officials during the two-hour forum designed to open lines of communication among the groups about a single issue: underage drinking.
After brief presentations that included school officials addressing policies that deal with students caught with alcohol, a doctor explaining how alcohol effects the brain and a City Council member proposing a curfew for local teens, a packed Centennial Hall came alive with parents shooting their hands into the air to offer suggestions about what can be done to prevent and reduce underage drinking in the community.
Most parents agreed that changing the culture of drinking among minors must start with parents taking responsibility for their children and themselves.
One mother said parents should stop drinking before attending school events and activities and stop sending the message that it is necessary to drink alcohol to celebrate or have a good time.
Another parent said a teen center could divert teens' time and attention away from drinking to more positive activities.
However, students from Steam--boat Springs High School, including Graham and Warner, warned the group that a teen center most likely would not be used by the students who drink alcohol. Rather, it would be used by students who already choose not to drink.
"The population there will not be the population we need to reach," Graham said.
Students stressed that they want to be more involved in discussions at the government level about issues and laws that directly involve them.
The students overwhelmingly said that instead of being lectured in school to "Just say no," educators should work on modernizing that strategy to apply to them.
For example, one student said she would rather learn about ways to say no to drinking that won't result in her being chastised by friends and peers.
The adults in attendance agreed that it is crucial to listen to students because they often are left out of discussions at home and in public.
"I would love to see a way where our kids can come to us with an open avenue for communication. I want to see this hall filled with kids, not just parents. I know they have a lot to say, and I want to listen," City Councilman Steve Ivancie said.
Steamboat Springs Human Resources Director and discussion facilitator John Thrasher reminded the group that although all of the ideas presented were valid, nothing will happen by just talking about them.
Thrasher encouraged parents and community members to network and create action subcommittees designed to work on some of the ideas presented during the meeting.
"We have to ask ourselves, 'Where do we want to go from here?' 'What do we want to do?' and 'What other issues are there?'" he said. "This is a tremendous community. We have some great assets, but we also have some problems. We don't need to throw the 'crisis' word at (underage drinking), but we do need to be aware it exists."
Some of the other ideas and discussions presented during Thursday's forum included:
Funding school sports in full so all students can play.
Changing social norms from the idea that drinking is "in" and that all students get drunk during weekends.
Encouraging parents to talk to their children, their children's friends and those friends' parents to know exactly where and what the teens are doing.
Starting a group for parents about how to be responsible.
Having more school-sponsored events such as dances and extracurricular activities.
Having more community-sponsored events for teens.
Getting more parents to volunteer for school events and activities including dances.
Passing a citywide curfew that would make it illegal for young people to be out after a certain time.
Educating high schoolers about what alcohol does to a developing brain.
Stopping events that are sponsored by alcohol companies, such as the Free Summer Concert Series.
Punishing parents who provide alcohol to minors and allow parties at their homes.