Campaign takes aim at attitudes

By John Martin
Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A new initiative to fight teenage drinking takes aim at the “everybody does it” attitude.

Youth First! and the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corp. on Monday unveiled the “Most of Us” campaign, which will permeate EVSC schools and other community outlets.

The message is based on a survey of 4,500 EVSC high school students showing seven in 10 “never or rarely” drink alcohol. Rarely is defined as two or fewer drinks a year.

But the same survey showed only 16 percent of students perceived that norm accurately.

Officials said the “Most of Us” campaign will attempt to convince students that most of their friends are avoiding alcohol.

“While Southwestern Indiana continues to grapple with the serious problem of high rates of underage drinking, we also want to capture the untold goodness of these messages and spread them in any possible way we can,” said Davi Stein, Youth First! clinical supervisor of social services.

At North High School, which hosted a news conference to introduce the campaign, junior students Alyssa Haller and Abby Farr said they know most of their peers don’t drink.

“Small groups who do get most of the attention,” Haller said.

Farr said: “If you hear about one person (drinking) you might think a lot of people do. But my friends don’t drink or do drugs.”

Posters carrying the “Most of Us” theme will go up in schools, and the message will be displayed on school marquees.

Clubs at the five EVSC high schools, which involve orientation activities for freshmen led by upperclassmen, will incorporate the “Most of Us” campaign into their activities.

The campaign will combine with anti-drug red ribbon activities that traditionally happen in October, and it will continue the rest of the school year.

A $1 million grant is funding the campaign.

“Any community that wants to provide what’s best for their students and wants them to achieve academically must address prevention efforts in a positive way,” said Valerie Bostick, EVSC project director for the federal Grant to Reduce Alcohol Abuse.

High school survey data accumulated in the spring also found 70 percent of students believe parents should clearly communicate to their children about not drinking alcohol, and 60 percent said getting drunk is never a good thing to do.

The survey was anonymous, and Stein said Youth First! worked with a consultant to develop the survey in a way that would bring truthful results.

“We went through a lengthy process to make sure the results would be valid and reliable,” Stein said.

“We formulated several questions that would help us make sure the students were telling the truth to make sure there is internal validity in the measure itself.”

The campaign’s theme has been shown by research to be effective, officials said.

“Youth First! is in the business of being effective and not just looking effective,” Stein said.