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Los Angeles County of Education Presentation on Underage Substance Abuse

Hosted by: Young Oak Kim Academy/Los Angeles County of Education

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How does underage drinking and substance misuse affect your community?

Our school, the Young Oak Kim Academy, is in a majority Hispanic, low socioeconomic urban area. The main issue at our school is a culture of normalizing and accepting underage drinking and substance misuse. This culture is exacerbated by the promotion of alcohol and substance misuse in popular music and media. Another issue we’re facing is finding effective methods to educate our teens and preteens on the dangers and consequences of underage drinking and substance misuse. 

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How did a Communities Talk event help you address those issues?

  • Mobilized coalition members or other stakeholders
  • Educated youth and parents
  • Built community cohesiveness and support for our efforts
  • Helped plan future prevention efforts
  • Made making good health behavior choices fun and engaging
  • Raised awareness of substance abuse and/or underage drinking issues in our community
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Which Communities Talk resources (or other SAMHSA resources) were most helpful for your activity?

  • Prevention videos, such as College Drinking: Prevention Perspectives
  • StopAlcoholAbuse.gov website
  • Communities Talk website
  • Real-life examples on the consequences of drunk driving, such as Jacqui's Story: Faces of Drunk Driving (a Texas Department of Transportation resource)
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How did your event make an impact on underage drinking in your community?

We conducted our first event for parents and teachers in October and discussed the harmful effects of teen substance misuse, with a special focus on vaping products and alcohol. In December, we began holding student assemblies during their physical education classes to facilitate more discussions. Students had many questions about the topics, such as “Why does alcohol make some people angry?” and “What’s the difference between driving drunk and driving high?” The student assemblies were an easy way to give honest and educational answers to students.

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What other challenge(s) did you face in planning your activity this year?

  • Particularly severe or resistant substance use issues in our community
  • Inexperience hosting Communities Talk activities
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How did you overcome these challenges?

More than 300 students have now participated in an open-forum discussion about teen alcohol misuse and drunk driving with LACOE. We discussed the high rates of drunk driving during the New Year’s holiday and gave tips to students on how to stay safe, making sure they knew that driving under the influence is illegal and has serious implications. To combat existing perceptions that driving intoxicated is “not that big a deal,” students watched “Jacqui’s Story,” a real-life example about drinking and driving from the Texas Department of Transportation. The story followed one young man’s mistake that ended up affecting many lives.

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What are your next steps?

  • Host follow-up meetings or activities
  • Create new action groups to tackle specific issues raised during our Communities Talk activity
  • Create a public education campaign to raise awareness and/or change behaviors around underage drinking (i.e., create PSAs and other promotional materials)

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