Oceanside youth advocate for a stronger community role

Oceanside youth are taking initiative to explain the community’s role in preventing underage drinking and prescription drug abuse.

The Rise Above Club, a youth group at El Camino High School under the guidance of the North Coastal Prevention Coalition (NCPC), is taking the lead in planning, organizing and co-facilitating a community forum from 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 19 at El Camino High School (400 Rancho Del Oro Dr., Oceanside), to discuss how youth and their families can make a difference in preventing problems associated with underage drinking and prescription drug abuse.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving ‘Power of Parents,’ one in three eighth grade students has tried alcohol, and kids who start drinking young are seven times more likely to be in an alcohol-related crash. In addition, high school students who use alcohol or other drugs are five times more likely to drop out of school or believe good grades are not important.

According to local surveys collected by NCPC, house parties are the most common source of alcohol for teens that report drinking.  Oceanside Police have issued 26 citations from 2009-13 to party hosts who have allowed underage drinking.  Neighbors play a crucial role in preventing the tragedies by reporting underage drinking parties to local law enforcement.  The 18 municipalities and unincorporated area of San Diego County all have social host, or “house party” ordinances.

Alcohol is not the only danger families are facing. In San Diego County, 1,260 people died from prescription drug-related deaths from 2009 to 2013 and 37 percent of juvenile arrestees report misusing prescription drugs, according to the San Diego County Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force.

In an effort to combat these statistics, families and community members are invited to the forum that will include experts in the alcohol and other drug abuse prevention field and law enforcement with expertise on underage drinking laws. Attendees will leave with information on how they can prevent these problems from happening in their communities, including phone numbers for calling in underage parties and how to dispose of prescription medicines when they are no longer needed, such as permanent drop box locations throughout the area.

Parents are encouraged to attend with their children, as research has shown they are the leading influence on kids’ decisions not to drink or use drugs.

“Parents play a key role in shaping their children’s attitudes and decisions,” NCPC President Ray Pearson said. “The forum will help them understand their role and actions they can take to prevent potential problems.”

Presenting at the forum will also be members of a local San Diego family who will discuss how prescription drug abuse affected them when their son overdosed in 2005, stressing how dangerous abuse can be — especially for youth.

It’s the combination of education and putting a face to the issue that will make this forum a must-see, said Rise Above Club President Jesus Manzano.

“Education is key,” Manzano said. “Most often, we just hear about facts and outcomes on the dangers and ramifications for youth. This forum will be far more impactful and tie in firsthand experience with underage drinking and prescription drug abuse issues.”

The forum will be in English with an interpretation in Spanish. Resource tables and light refreshments will be available from 6 to 6:30 p.m. followed by a presentation and panel discussion. The forum is scheduled to conclude at 8 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public.  For more information about the event, contact Carmela Muñoz at (760) 631-5000 ext. 7147 or visit northcoastalpreventioncoalition.org.

Jesus Manzano is president of the Rise Above Club and senior at El Camino High School

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