Throughout the year, alcohol use by persons under 21 is a major public health problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the U.S.
A recent survey reported that 37 percent of eighth graders and 72 percent of 12th graders have tried alcohol. Youth and young adults between 12 and 20 years consume 11 percent of all alcohol sold nationally.
In 2008, there were approximately 190,000 emergency room visits by persons under 21 for injuries and other alcohol-related conditions. There are a myriad of other problems caused by alcohol use, including poor grades, unprotected sexual activity and brain development changes that may have life-long effects.
PYCC member Rel Sparks provides positive pressure for her peers.
Photo: C. Jalbert
Sadly, the average age for first-time drinkers in Maui County is 11.8 years old—the youngest in the state.
Reducing underage drinking requires community-based efforts to monitor the activities of youth and decrease their access to alcohol.
But the Pā‘ia Youth & Cultural Center (PYCC) has an even better idea. Malama Pono Project Venture (MPPV) is the center’s new, dual-component program that will serve county adolescents.
The program’s outdoor component encourages youth to actively engage in the environment and community with the guidance of professional program specialists. Participants gain self-awareness, confidence and leadership skills through challenges in nature and connection to culture. MPPV is implemented through a year-long sequence that builds in intensity through outdoor activities such as hiking and paddle boarding.
A second component, Venture Youth Media, will run concurrently. Sessions will be team-led collaborative production efforts addressing underage drinking in Maui County. Each team will explore the issues, create media messaging in their own voice and actively produce and distribute television, Web and radio public services announcements.
The free programs begin January and multiple seven-week camps will continue through 2011.
Youth may not listen to us, but they do listen to each other.