Greenwich High School in Greenwich, Connecticut, hosted a Communities Talk: Town Hall Meetings to Prevent Underage Drinking event through the school’s Outreach Club, which focuses on reducing underage drinking within the community. Although the median income of Greenwich is significantly higher than the national average, the town faces the same youth substance misuse challenges as the rest of the country.
According to Kathy Steiner, a wellness education teacher at the school and co-advisor of the Outreach Club, there’s a correlation between affluence and alcohol misuse occurring among youth. To tackle this problem, the Outreach Club collaborated with school staff, students, parents, community members and organizations to open the conversation at its first event, called “Stress, Success, and Teenage Setbacks: What to Expect—The Teen Years.”
How They Did It
The Communities Talk event, targeted at middle and high school youth and parents, was planned by the students in the Outreach Club in collaboration with the school and community. It included a guest speaker as well as giveaways—which are always effective in attracting participants. “I’m a firm believer in ‘build it, and they will come,’” says Steiner.
Steiner said that the following elements helped the event be successful:
- Linking up with the community and getting the word out. The Outreach Club collaborated with the Arch Street Teen Center, the local chapter of United Way and Junior United Way, and other community organizations to promote and oversee the event. Having students serve as the primary organizers of the event created buzz and spread the prevention message among their peers. To generate further interest, the planning committee used social media, distributed fliers in the local middle and high schools and community centers, and sent information in a monthly parent e-newsletter.
- Talking with an alumnus. The guest speaker, a Greenwich High School alumnus, talked about what it means to be a leader and his experiences with peer pressure. He talked about using resources such as parents, teachers, coaches, and community leaders to discuss problems and make positive decisions. Additionally, a panel that included a Greenwich police officer, as well as two people who are in recovery for alcohol addiction, discussed the risks of underage drinking.
- Bagging up the info. Attendees received “swag bags” containing information about substance misuse from community resources and prevention programs. The bags also included giveaways, such as a free cup of coffee or gym memberships from local retailers to show their support for the community event.
The event generated positive feedback from both attendees and organizers.
- Turnout exceeded expectations, with 300 community members in attendance—including parents, students, teachers, administrators, and local politicians.
- Local media covered the event to inform the community and keep the prevention conversation going.
- Some attendees struggling with substance misuse issues felt encouraged after listening to panel presenters tell their stories of recovery.
- Representatives from community organizations focusing on prevention, intervention, and treatment were able to connect with families and individuals at the event.
A Community in Action
The Outreach Club will continue to collaborate with school and community organizations to pursue the following activities:
- Hold “Stress, Success, and Teenage Setbacks” events at least twice a year focused on alcohol misuse and co-occurring disorders.
- Focus an upcoming event on athletes abiding by their code of conduct, including what it means to party sober and be a leader.
- Administer a survey to gain insight from attendees on future events.