Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Live

by Marsha Dorgan

What started out almost three decades ago as a program to give teenagers something to do on Friday nights instead of hanging out on the streets has blossomed into a statewide organization focusing on teen problems.

Friday Night Live has taken on issues that affect young people and the community.

There are five chapters in Napa County: Justin-Siena; Calistoga; Valley Oak and Napa high schools; and V.O.I.C.E.S., a Napa County group dedicated to helping teens in foster care transition to independent living at the age of 18. The group works out of the Napa High campus.

Friday Night Live is a youth development program operated by the county department of health and human services. Katie Keating, M.P.H., a health education specialist, oversees the five chapters.

The Napa County chapters have focused their resources and involvement on spreading the word of the dangers of underage drinking.

“We want to educate not only teens about the problems of underage drinking, but the community as well,” Katie said.

She said the availability of alcohol to teenagers is a big contributing factor to the problem.

“The Napa County chapters are working to decrease the ways and places youth can obtain alcohol,” Katie said.

Megan Howell, 16, is a member of the Justin-Siena chapter. “We did a survey on how kids get alcohol. The consensus was the number one place to get it is at parties. We found some parents supplied the alcohol, or the teens got an older sibling or friend to buy it for them.”

“Another part of the campaign is to target stores that sell alcohol to minors. They are supposed to ID everyone who does not look old enough to buy alcohol, but very often they don’t,” she said.

Friday Night Live was instrumental in getting the Social Host Ordinance passed in Napa, which makes the adult owner or renter of the home where alcohol is accessible to minors liable for fines up to $1,000, plus the cost of law enforcement for responding to an incident. Fines are applicable whether or not the adult knew there was underage drinking going on.

Seventeen-year-old Emily Zikmund, a member of the Friday Night Live Napa High School chapter, said the ordinance has been successful.

“I have heard of parties breaking up because of the ordinance, and even some parties that were planned never happening,” Emily said. “They don’t want to get caught.”

The TRACE (Targeting Responsibility for Alcohol-Related Emergencies) program is another tool to prevent underage drinking.

The Justin-Siena chapter of Friday Night Live gave a presentation to the Napa Police Department, suggesting using TRACE to investigate the location of where underage drinkers obtained the alcohol. Once the investigation, with the assistance of Alcohol Beverage Control, is finished, those responsible will be legally accountable for their actions.

“Alcohol abuse is the number one cause of death for young people under 21,” Katie said.

Keating stresses the need for parents to be involved in their teenagers’ lives. “Parents need to watch for signs of drinking and talk to their children. Their kids have a lot of peer pressure to deal with, and they are easily persuaded,” she said. “Friday Night Live has done a lot to curb the problem, but we still have a long way to go.”

Product packaging is not helping the cause. For example, some energy drinks contain alcohol, but the packaging is deceiving. “Two energy drinks, Four Loko and Sparks, have alcohol. They are easier to drink because they don’t taste much like alcohol,” Keating said. “Sometimes it is hard for parents or school staff to tell if the minor is consuming a non-alcoholic energy drink or something else that has alcohol in it.”

Mackenzie, 17, is a member of the V.O.I.C.E.S. chapter.
“We work on town hall meetings to inform the community and teens how underage drinking affects all of us,” Mackenzie said. “We have the meetings once a year and we usually get a good turnout.”

Friday Night Live members have placed ads in city buses warning of the problems of underage drinking. They also work with local stores that sell alcohol to reduce minors’ access.

Friday Night Live partners with parents, law enforcement, local community groups, media, schools, and local government officials.
In addition to attacking underage drinking, the chapters foster leadership among teens, adults, and the community.

Megan has been a member for one and a half years. “I joined because I want to be pro-active and see the changes I want happen. And, with the help of those around me, I know it has been beneficial to me and the community.”

Mackenzie wanted someone to look up to.
 “I joined Friday Night Live because it provides good opportunities to learn leadership skills and interact with adults and the community,” she said.

Emily enjoys the adult relationships being a part of Friday Night Live has given her. “I have learned how to respect and talk to adults and how to be professional around them,” she said.

The five chapters of Napa County Friday Night Live have about 100 members.  It is open to all high school kids 15 to 18 years old.

The Napa County Friday Night Live received the 2011 Prevention Award from the County Alcohol and Drug Program Administrators’ Associates of California.

The chapters have a youth council which is the leadership arm of Friday Night Live.

Information is available by calling Keating at 253-4724 or online at
katie.keating@countyofnapa.org

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