Opinion

Island Forum | Islanders need to address underage drinking

Dan Grausz
Island Forum

It is no secret that Mercer Island continues to have a serious problem with underage drinking. Spring Tolo, prom and graduation are quickly approaching, and this is a time of year when teens will face tough decisions about drugs and alcohol. Although most youth will make healthy decisions, it remains rare for the months of May or June to go by without a teenage alcohol- or drug-related incident on Mercer Island. In conjunction with “Alcohol Awareness Month” this April, we would like to invite you to be part of an important community conversation aimed at getting a better understanding of this issue. We are changing our community pattern of only talking about underage substance use when a child is killed or severely injured.

In the weeks ahead, Mercer Island Communities That Care (MICTC), a project sponsored by our Youth and Family Services department, will be supporting Island residents as they host dialogues called “Café Conversations.” Loosely defined, Café Conversations are conversations among diverse people on subjects that matter, providing an open forum to discuss a topic over coffee or tea. Also known as “World Cafés” and originally held in restaurants, these exchanges benefit from having people with different perspectives around the same table. 

We all gain from having healthy youth who are contributing members of our community and the greater world. Likewise, we also play a role in developing the community in which they live and the resultant expectations for their behavior. Part of preventing underage alcohol use is doing all we can to raise children in communities where adults, parents and other leaders convey consistent messages about underage alcohol use.

Your contributions to the Café Conversations will help inform the MICTC coalition about what we need to do as a community to counter the alcohol use trends which we see among our children. This may include changing laws to hold adults more accountable for home or limousine parties and providing education on the wisdom of delaying first use of alcohol.

If you are an adult, we need to hear from you at a Café Conversation. If you are an Island youth, be a part of the Youth Summit on Underage Drinking on April 26. We need your input on how we can join together to maintain a positive, safe quality of life for all Mercer Islanders.

As incredible as our kids are on Mercer Island, some may make careless decisions this spring and be at risk for arrest or even more serious consequences. It is tempting to assume that this won’t be your child. Even so, it could be your neighbor’s teen, your grandchild, or that great kid from down the block. Let’s join together so that every young member of our community can thrive. Please join us in one of the Café Conversations this month. Underage drinking affects us all.

If you would like to participate in a Café Conversation or host one of your own, contact Sharon Broz, project coordinator for Mercer Island Communities That Care, at 275-7743.  

Dan Grausz is a member of the City Council.

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