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Alcoholism and drug abuse cut across all age groups, races, and social and economic levels. They can be found in rural farm communities and modern high-rises; in high-tech companies and churches; among sports stars and suburban parents.
As a voter and citizen in your community, you can help make things better. Here are some kinds of community programs that researchers have found effective:
-- Peer leadership programs that train young people in skills needed to encourage healthy choices in same-age or younger students.
-- Active involvement of parents in the lives of young people, including mutual support groups and modeling abstinent behavior.
-- Big Brother/Big Sister or other mentorship programs that connect at-risk youth with caring adults who serve as good role models.
-- Life skills training in schools that teaches assertiveness in situations where young people may experience pressure to smoke tobacco, drink alcohol, or use drugs. This should start in the sixth or seventh grade.
In addition to encouraging these resources in your community, you can also work to make sure young people have healthy outlets such as jobs, chemical-free entertainment, athletic and arts outlets, and educational opportunities, all of which can provide fulfilling goals that help keep young people rooted in society instead of looking for an escape.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|