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Columbus North High School senior Todd Smith wants his peers to know they can live above the influence of alcohol and drugs — and do so with a lifestyle that includes plenty of fun.
That’s part of the idea behind a public mural he and fellow students and others age 13 to 20 will paint Thursday along the People Trail at Mill Race Park in an area near Indianapolis Road. Organizers hope for more than 100 young people to partake of a day that will include live music, free food, games with gift-certificate prizes and other activities from noon to 8 p.m.
Mayor Kristen Brown will paint the first stroke in the effort, which is part of National Above the Influence Day. The project also is part of the local initiative Party SAFE (Substance-Abuse-Free Entertainment), begun earlier this year. The Foundation for Youth program aims to persuade young people to make decisions to party without drugs, alcohol or tobacco.
As Smith sees it, Thursday seems a good opportunity to do precisely that.
“I think the majority of teens in town are looking for something to do with other teens,” said Smith, organizing the event as part of his senior project.
The mural will be the Party SAFE logo, which will be a way of highlighting the project’s effort to curb alcohol and drug abuse among young people.
More than 5,000 people younger than 21 die annually due to underage drinking, according to abovetheinfluence.com.
In 2011, 24 percent of Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. senior students reported binge drinking (five or more drinks in one sitting). Meanwhile, 7 percent of BCSC sixth-graders also reported binge drinking.
But nearly 400 local students recently have signed Party SAFE pledge cards to abstain from alcohol, drugs and tobacco, according to Eric Riddle. He’s coordinator of the Communities That Care program, part of the Bartholomew County Substance Abuse Council, representing a group of area agencies fighting addictions.
“Those pledges are just the beginning,” Riddle said.
He mentioned that a recent local survey shows that 85 percent of Bartholomew County teens recognize the Party SAFE name, and 75 percent see it as a positive concept.
Party SAFE also is working to encourage parents to pledge not to host gatherings where drugs, alcohol or tobacco are present. And so far, 15 businesses are part of the push as they offer discounts to young people who have signed Party SAFE pledge cards.
“It’s important for people to know that Party SAFE is not just bashing alcohol and drugs,” Smith said. “It’s about educating people about the alternatives to alcohol and drugs.”
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