While high school proms and graduations can be landmark moments in youth’s lives, for some, they can also become prime opportunities for underage alcohol consumption. One community – Wood County Prevention Coalition (WCPC) – set out to ensure that these special events are safely celebrated, substance-free, through a multi-faceted media campaign.
“Last summer, we received a grant from a local funding source – the Bowling Green Community Foundation – for our proposed idea of encouraging and creating ‘Safe Celebrations,’” explained Tina Bradley, WCPC’s Drug-Free Communities Grants Coordinator. “Based on our logic model and speaking with our local police department, we knew that most youth consuming alcohol were doing so at home on the weekends with their parents’ supervision and/or permission. There’s a misperception in the community that as long as it’s happening at home, it’s safe for youth to consume – but that’s not the case, and it’s also not legal. What we pitched as the subject of our campaign was to get the word out about social host laws, so that parents are aware of the legal ramifications of providing alcohol to youth and allowing parties with substances in their homes.”
“We set out to share this message through television commercials, social media, and digital and print advertising, with separate versions of each that either targeted towards parents or youth. In messaging towards parents, we homed in on social host laws and followed up these messages by digitally distributing information cards on social host laws and including social host information in each packet for graduation that was sent out to parents and guardians. With the youth, we emphasized that 92% of their peers were substance-free, and that most were planning to enjoy their memorable events without substances.”
Additionally, posters were hung up inside the school alongside banners that reinforced the idea of safely celebrating substance-free. To go even further, WCPC also partnered with their local law enforcement to step up patrols on both prom and graduation night. “The feedback we got back from them was really positive. In fact, there were no arrests made on either night.”
Through this successful collaboration, WCPC and the law enforcement sector decided to expand the Safe Celebrations theme the following year to also include messaging and patrolling at Homecoming and high school football games.
“Everything we achieved came from a group effort. A key piece was including the law enforcement and school sectors, as well as having a Prevention Education Specialist at the school involved. She was the one that rounded up student volunteers to place the posters and banners around the school. We also had a wonderful volunteer intern who created all of the ads and was critical to the campaign’s success. My advice is to utilize the skills of your volunteers, because they are able to bring an expertise to the table that might not otherwise be available to you. Additionally, if you’re looking to replicate this in your community, I recommend starting in a targeted area, learning from that experience and then replicating it in a larger outreach plan.”