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Joe Harpring for The Republic / Todd Smith adds his own touches to the mural, the creation of which is part of his Columbus North High School Senior Project. Columbus teens, pledged to forego tobacco, alcohol and other substances of abuse, gathered Oct. 17 to paint a mural with a Party SAFE theme, along the People Trail near Mill Race Park.
THERE is just cause for concern about drug and alcohol abuse among the youths of Bartholomew County despite ongoing community efforts in response to the problem.
Through the years it has been repeatedly demonstrated that action from within — specifically the youths themselves — is one of the most successive approaches.
That’s why initiatives like the recent project to paint a public mural on the Eighth Street Bridge underpass along the People Trail at Mill Race Park can yield results that no amount of parental preaching or slogans can achieve.
The difference in this initiative is that it was youth-driven and youth-oriented. In other words, a significant number of local teens took ownership of the endeavor to fight a problem that has plagued their generation and those that preceded it.
In another instance of the benefits of the senior project program that is now a mainstay at both East and North high schools, North senior Todd Smith created the hands-on concept as part of his project. It involved bringing together approximately 50 young people to paint a mural that champions alternatives to drugs and alcohol.
It was aligned with an earlier initiative known as Party SAFE (Substance Abuse Free Entertainment) that has been coordinated through the Foundation for Youth to encourage young people to make decisions to celebrate without alcohol, drugs or tobacco.
The event and Party SAFE enjoyed support from community organizations and adults. At least 15 local businesses provided discounts to teens who signed the SAFE pledge to forgo alcohol and drugs, and the mural painting project also received assistance.
That said, both efforts remained youth-driven. Nearly 400 local students have already signed the Party SAFE pledge cards, and word is spreading. It is significant to note that in a recent survey, 85 percent of Bartholomew County teens recognize the Party SAFE name, and 75 percent consider the concept a good one.
Initiating these efforts is only one step. Sustaining them is another, even bigger hurdle.
The problem is enormous. According to a 2011 survey, 24 percent of seniors within the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. reported they had been involved in instances of binge drinking. Nearly 7 percent of the corporation’s middle school students reported similar incidents.
Neither the mural nor Party SAFE is a cure-all. They are starts, however, that are owned by the youths of this community.
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