The roads were slick with fresh rain. The clouds were so black it was as though ink from a ballpoint pen had broken, permanently staining the sky. My friends and I pondered our night ahead when my phone lit up with a warm text message inviting us all to come over. Perfect, we had plans.
When we got to the house, it was not what we expected. Walking in, we were offered alcohol — everyone had a red cup in hand. Was it worth it? We chose not to drink and left after a few minutes.
Planning to drive off-Island, I decided to head toward the freeway via East Mercer Way. I drove carefully as the sharpest turn on the road appeared. A figure flashed in the bottom field of my vision. I took greater control of the wheel and swerved to avoid it. Passing by, I saw someone lying in the middle of East Mercer Way. My mind worked quickly as I pulled over. After asking my friend to call the police, I ran to the woman and helped her out of the road. Seconds later, a red Porsche skidded around the corner on the wet pavement without a hint of hesitation. It was only later that I considered “what if.”
I made a series of good choices that night that had a greater outcome than I could have ever anticipated. Often, since, I have thought about choices in general and how hard it is for students to make “good” choices with continual academic, parental and social pressures. I also realized that my decision not to drink that evening profoundly affected more lives than just my own.
I spoke with Nancy Lee following this episode. Nancy is my inspirational great-aunt whom I respect and love very much. She plays a vital role in marketing healthy behaviors to people in our community and also worldwide. Nancy invited me to tackle a project about teen drinking on Mercer Island. As a result of her suggestion, I will be speaking at a Mercer Island Communities That Care event, “Keeping Our Kids Safe: The Era of Legal Marijuana and Easy Access to Alcohol,” on May 7. This event also incorporates the alcohol campaign, “Draw the Line,” which seeks to reduce underage drinking rates statewide through education and marketing.
Topics to be addressed on May 7 are numerous, but my focus is to encourage parents to have healthy, open conversations with their young adults. This may include discussing consequences, family values and expectations surrounding alcohol and other substance use. Open dialogue within families creates strong trusting relationships that will hopefully end in good decision making. Many individuals have expressed to me that parents command rather than converse with them on alcohol use. Other parents shut down and never discuss the subject. Are adults afraid that kids are going to try to negotiate parental permission for drinking? Or do they think the reasons not to drink are just too obvious to clarify?
My project is to ask citizens of Mercer Island to pledge to protect underage youth from alcohol. This also includes “older” friends of high school students who are the No. 1 providers of alcohol to minors on Mercer Island. I’m also asking parents of young adults to clarify their expectations that those 21 and over not become that source of supply to those younger.
I invite you to pledge to play your role in protecting youth from underage alcohol use and to attend this event on May 7 to learn more. Standing together, we can promote change that will facilitate the healthy growth and lives of MI youth. We all need to 'Pledge to Protect.' There’s always that possibility that a single choice or conversation may have more impact than one initially foresees.
The event will be held at 6:30 p.m., May 7, in the MIHS library.