“We have the Youth Action Team, which is composed of five to seven students from each high school in Bartow County, including the city. We meet together monthly and they work on various civic-oriented projects,” Scott Sherwin, Bartow Youth Action Team advisor, said. “Since Red Ribbon Week was in October, we were able to get the message out about the Rethink the Drink campaign, which really started last year with the ... ‘Decisions’ video.”
Approximately 12 minutes in length, the “Decisions” film depicts how a high school student’s decision to drink and drive, using liquor he acquired from home, resulted in the death of two classmates as well as his incarceration. It features local actor Alan J. Sanders and Woodland High School graduate Josh Hare as well as victims of drunk driving and local EMS, businesses and law enforcement.
“What we did was come up with a text-pledge campaign where students can text the word ‘pledge’ to 25399,” Sherwin said. “... At Woodland, I spoke to the freshmen at their [Alcohol and Drug Awareness Program] training ... and asked them to do the pledge while they were together doing that, and we had funds in the budget to do stadium cups for the [Cartersville High School] Canes and for Woodland.”
He said Adairsville High School and Cass High School students participated as well by signing a pledge during their lunch periods.
“At South Central Middle School I was able to give out some goodies as well like pencils, Red Ribbon Week stickers, and we’ve also asked the kids there to take the Red Ribbon Week pledge,” Sherwin said. “We’re trying to put positive spins on [the campaign] like here’s how you can have fun at a party and here’s what you can do to enjoy your high school years without alcohol, and one way we’re really doing that is through our rethinkthedrink.org website and our Pinterest page. We’re giving kids ideas, if they go to our Pinterest page, for cool things to do with their friends.
“Not every kid is drinking but sometimes they think everyone is doing it, so we want to give them alternatives to alcohol.”
Sherwin said the Rethink the Drink campaign also encourages adults to take an active role in helping prevent underage drinking.
“As far as the adults go, we’re trying to get them to Rethink the Drink from an access point of view. The kids tell us in our surveys — and we did over 1,000 surveys in Bartow County — that they actually get their alcohol either at home or from their friends’ houses,” Sherwin said. “So what we want to do this year is encourage parents and adults who purchase alcohol to be aware of the access to youth.
“If you buy it, that’s cool — you’re allowed to if you’re over 21, but monitor it.”
AHS senior Makayla Martin said she enjoyed her school’s Red Ribbon Week activities and hopes the Bartow Youth Action Team’s efforts can influence students to make good choices.
“I’ve seen plenty of my classmates get on drugs and they drop out and they’re just not making good decisions for their lives,” Martin said. “... My group of friends are not the type to go out and drink and do drugs, but I do know a few who participate in that.”
She said while drug use has affected some of her classmates, she feels alcohol is more widely used by local teens.
For more information on the Youth Action Team or to become involved, contact Scott Sherwin at 678-721-5922.