RALIE Students Support Underage Drinking Prevention in Minnesota
Northfield Healthy Community Initiative (HCI)
Northfield, Minnesota, is about 40 miles south of St. Paul and is split across Rice and Dakota counties. With the majority of the city located in northern Rice County, unfavorable statistics on adult binge drinking from the 2014 Rice County Community Health Assessment were not taken lightly. The assessment found that 37.6 percent of adults in northern Rice County reported binge drinking, compared with 17.2 percent of Minnesota residents statewide and 27.1 percent of adults nationally.
In addition to the 2014 statistics on adult drinking, a 2013 report showed that 32.7 percent of Minnesota students in grades 9 to 12 had their first drink of alcohol, other than a few sips, before age 13, significantly increasing their likelihood of experiencing alcohol problems as adults.
In light of these alarming statistics, one Northfield organization that is invested in building community capacity to improve the lives of young people, the Northfield Healthy Community Initiative (HCI), decided to use a Town Hall Meeting, supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, to foster intergenerational collaboration to prevent underage drinking and address its contribution to adult binge drinking.
The Northfield HCI planned a Town Hall Meeting on May 8, 2014, to promote dialogue on underage drinking between students and community leaders. The goal was to build prevention-oriented activities and events for high schoolers and provide insight into the challenges surrounding local youth regarding underage drinking.
The organization invited Northfield High School’s Raider Activity Leaders Improving Enthusiasm (RALIE) program, one of its community partners, to organize and participate in the Town Hall Meeting. RALIE is composed of 11th and 12th graders who pledge to stay alcohol- and drug-free, participate in leadership training, and coordinate community events. The meeting used small group discussions and informal conversations between participants to increase leadership, promote youth development, reduce underage alcohol use and other dangerous behaviors, and create a healthier community.
MEASURES OF SUCCESS
One hundred Northfield High School students and 22 area leaders participated in the Town Hall Meeting, including Northfield’s mayor and police chief, the Rice County commissioner, several school board members, and adult volunteers. The dialogue between participants fostered practical suggestions for community improvement. Students learned how city and county leaders support Northfield youth through legislation and programs, and adults learned about the RALIE program and gained fresh insight into the prevention needs and challenges of students. Additionally, the Northfield News published an article about the Town Hall Meeting to increase community awareness.
RALIE plans to use the information gathered during the event to guide planning of its activities for the following school year and coordinate trainings for RALIE team leaders. The Northfield Mayor’s Task Force will use the information and insight provided by RALIE students in local policy and enforcement planning.