Teens and parents looking for the latest fashion trends or back-to-school specials are likely to notice something else new at Westfield Horton Plaza: three posters with warnings about the dangers of underage drinking.
The colorful posters feature students from Hoover High School, all members of the mid-city Latino Youth Council. The posters, located on the first and second floor directory kiosks, as well as in the food court of the mall, contain messages developed by the students. The advertising space was donated by Westfield Horton Plaza and the posters will be on display until mid-November.
“The Latino Youth Council is instrumental in our efforts to make San Diego residents healthy and safe,” said Chairman Ron Roberts, County Board of Supervisors, at the unveiling of the posters. “Using places like the mall to highlight prevention messages directed at parents and youth during the back-to-school season is a smart way for local youth to help drive community change.”
The 12-member, 7-year-old teen group is part of Social Advocates for Youth, one of many organizations the County funds to work on substance abuse prevention issues.
The posters, which the teens designed and volunteered themselves as models send parents and youths a simple but powerful message: alcohol and other drugs can be dangerous.
“We want to change the perception that alcohol and drugs are fun and safe,” said Luis Rivera, 16 and a junior at Hoover High.
“We’re hoping the posters will be an opportunity for parents and youth to talk about underage drinking,” added Luis, who has been a member of the Latino Youth Council for the past 18 months.
Research has shown that parents can play an important role in reducing underage drinking just by being involved in their children’s lives.
“Parents are a powerful tool when it comes to underage drinking,” added Judith Uriostegui, also 16, a junior at Hoover High, and a member of the group. “Teens drink because they see it as an escape and alcohol is easy to get.”
The students hope parents and other teens consider the startling statistics contained in their posters:
- Children who do not feel close to a parent are twice as likely to drink
- Teens who start drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become alcoholics
- Regular teen drinking may shrink the area of the brain that controls learning, memory and decision making
Advertisers and marketers, the students say, are constantly bombarding teens and encouraging them to drink. Luis and Judith hope teens don’t give into peer pressure and the fallacy that the only way to have fun is to drink or use drugs.
“You don’t have to drink to have fun,” said Luis.
He and Judith choose not to associate with teens who drink or use drugs but are aware that both activities take place in their school and community. Instead, they said, they choose to get involved in activities that have a positive impact in their community.
“We are having fun without drinking,” Luis added. “And if we can do it, other teens can do it.”