John Underwood will give two presentations that are open to the public: from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Olympian Hall in Howelsen Lodge, and from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at Centennial Hall on 10th Street.
Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs Police Department Capt. Joel Rae said raising youth drug and alcohol awareness requires a three-pronged attack that includes enforcement, promoting alternative activities and education.
This week, education will be the emphasis. John Underwood, founder and president of the American Athletic Institute, will visit Routt County to give several presentations about his research on the detrimental effects of alcohol and drug abuse on youths’ minds, bodies, and academic and athletic performance.
Two of the presentations will be open to members of the public. They will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Olympian Hall in Howelsen Lodge and from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at Centennial Hall on 10th Street. The presentations are free.
Other presentations will be directed to specific groups, including students from Steamboat Springs High School and middle school, Soroco High School and middle school, The Lowell Whiteman School and Christian Heritage School, and coaches and administrators from schools and organizations throughout the county.
Dervla Lacy, Routt County director for Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, said in an e-mail that she expects Underwood’s presentations to reach 1,300 students in the county.
Lacy said Grand Futures, a tri-county organization that works to promote healthy lifestyles through alternatives to substance abuse, received a $9,000 grant from Routt County United Way to help bring Underwood back to the county.
She said Underwood’s presentations are intended to further Grand Futures’ work to reduce and prevent youth drug and alcohol abuse by advocating change in community norms, such as implementation of the city’s social host ordinance. In May, the Steamboat Springs City Council approved the ordinance, which punishes adults for knowingly providing alcohol to minors.
“John Underwood, as an expert in the fields of athletics and social drug use, can help to change these community norms further,” Lacy said. “Particularly as 80 percent of SSHS participates in athletics, we believe that we can affect real change amongst these youth, who as leaders within their school and community, can work to change these accepted norms.”
Underwood spoke in Steamboat in 2008. Rae said that first visit was well received by students, teachers, coaches and parents.
Youth drug and alcohol abuse has long been a problem in the community, Rae said. He said bringing someone like Underwood — a former NCAA All-American, international-level distance runner and Olympic coach and adviser — is another way to reach young people in the community through education.
“What we’re trying to do here is change a culture,” Rae said. “We know there’s a lot of kids who go out and drink. We know there’s a lot of athletes who go out and drink. Alpine skiing is the No. 1 sport where alcohol is abused. That hits close to home with us.”
Rae said the hope is to change that behavior so those youths could become role models for their peers.
For more information about the presentations, call Grand Futures at 970-879-6188.