Steamboat Springs High School junior Ty Hvambsal will use data from a survey for his senior project to express that not all students use drugs and alcohol.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Steamboat Springs High School junior Ty Hvambsal will use data from a survey for his senior project to express that not all students use drugs and alcohol.

Anti-underage drinking group turning to new tactics

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— The Steamboat Springs City Council's narrow defeat of the social host ordinance last month managed to slow the work of the Excellence Project, but it did not stop the goals of the organization.

Following the 3-3 defeat of the bill, by lack of a majority Dec. 16, the Excellence Project has started to regroup and focus on new efforts, though it seems unlikely the group again will approach the City Council any time soon. The Excellence Project is a community collaboration - including parents, teachers and counselors - to curb underage drinking.

Colleen Lyon, a member of the group, said the ordinance managed to shift some views and successfully increased awareness of teen drinking in Steamboat Springs, despite its failure in Centennial Hall.

"Obviously, we were disappointed, and I think we were more concerned about the message that sends to the community - that the City Council doesn't back the ordinance," she said. "But it raised the issue, and whether that ordinance is a step the community wants to move in or not, I think the community came forward, and it raised the issue of underage drinking."

But without the support of ordinances, Lyon said, the education can fall flat.

"We can't just focus on education and awareness; it also has to focus on the environment the kids are growing up in, whether it's how many liquor establishments we have in town per capita or enforcing keg registration."

School Resource Officer Josh Carrell, a constant presence at Steamboat Springs High School and also a member of the Excellence Project, said he would like to see the City Council resurrect the issue in the future.

"I think it's a tool to keep in the back of their minds and bring back to help the youths in this town," he said.

The group instead will focus on "changing social norms" at the high school to demonstrate to students that drinking and drug abuse is not the standard behavior.

The idea, Carrell said, is to reinforce positive behaviors and let students know that although it may seem that many of their peers drink and abuse drugs, a majority do not.

"What people were finding is, the whole negative approach to information isn't beneficial," he said.

The project is enlisting students, including junior Ty Hvambsal, to approach the project from a student's perspective.

For his senior project, Hvambsal is going to create an awareness campaign using figures from the Healthy Kids Colorado survey showing what "normal" behavior looks like.

"If you focus too much on the negatives (the students) won't think they can change," he said.

Hvambsal and Carrell also are members of the Grand Futures Prevention Coalition board. Lyon is the director of the coalition.

Carrell said projects such as Hvambsal's are important, even if the ordinance never takes effect, because it is a step in the effort to change community perception.

"If you're going to change a culture, it takes a lot of time," Carrell said.

Comments

Lisa Zirkle 5 years, 11 months ago

Kids definitely need to see and hear that not "everyone does it." Thinking most of their peers drink or do drugs is indeed overwhelming.

I have three teens, and they and their friends have felt overwhelmed at times, so I commend this group for shifting the focus.

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