NEWBERRY COUNTY — Youth members from the Newberry County Coalition on Underage Drinking recently attended the Carolina’s Youth Leadership Initiative at Winthrop University with 40 other youths.
Those who attended were Newberry High School students Marianna Robertson, Lauren Yoder and Carmelo Medina and Whitmire Community School graduate Darian Gilliam.
“The purpose was to improve and grow your leadership skills, take them to the next level and learn form others and build on what you know. Also help other youth leaders with their leadership skills, because they are not only helping us, but we are helping them also,” Gilliam said.
Robertson said the Initiative also helped them learn how to improve the problem of underage drinking in Newberry County by giving them the steps and strategies to do so.
Tom Perry, Coalition coordinator, said that the youth members determined that underage drinking was a problem in Newberry County by analyzing data from the Communities that Care survey, and from what they have seen in school.
“They do not see the numbers. They see the faces behind the numbers. These youths have a heart for service and making things better, that is what I am proudest of them for,” Perry said.
Robertson said they worked to find a way to find the source of underage drinking, and to make a plan to possibly stop the source. They determined the source of underage drinking is older peers providing alcohol to minors.
“We know this by talking to people, and from people at school. Being students, we are able to hear most of it. We have heard people say they got it from an older friend, sometimes even a family member,” Robertson said.
After determining the source, the youth coalition members worked to determine how they could help the problem. Gilliam believes one way is to give people facts, like death rates and how many people abuse alcohol.
“When you give someone facts and give them numbers about something, that really makes them think about what they are doing and how it is affecting everybody,” he said.
Another suggestion Gilliam had was to branch out the Youth Coalition. He said he knows that there are branches in all of the schools, but he thinks there are some youths who would like to be a part of the coalition, but are scared.
“Branch out to them and let them know we are here and there is somewhere they can go to help fight with us. I think some people think they are alone until they get to the Coalition, and you feel like you are one,” he said.
Other ideas to help with the underage drinking problem included having speakers come to the schools, have students visit prisons, party patrols and an after prom non-alcoholic party.
“We talked about having a non alcoholic party at the Young Life building, after prom in the future,” Robertson said.
The youths also talked about getting more information to parents. Robertson said bringing the information to the parents, maybe even at an assembly, would be beneficial because she does not think parents really see the problem.
While the main purpose of the Leadership Initiative was to help determine steps and strategies to lower the amount of underage drinking in Newberry County, Robertson and Gilliam also found it beneficial to see so many youths working together.
“As a Youth Coalition member, it is not just a few of us, it is a lot of us. Just to see us all in one place, that just strengthened me to open my eyes. People all over this state, and North Carolina are fighting for what is right,” Gilliam said.
Reach Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @ TheNBOnews.