Greenport students get the word how drinking could change their lives — and not for the better

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO Seventh graders Jennifer Palencia, left, and Yeni Solis during a learning exercise at the HUGS teen drinking seminar at Greenport School on Wednesday.

Greenport middle school students got a hard and personal lesson last week in how alcohol could impact their lives.

Trainer Kym Laube from HUGS — Human Understanding and Growth Seminars — drove the lesson home through exercises and a media presentation on the downside of teen drinking during assemblies held at the school Oct. 26.

It started with a simple statistic: Eight children in the U.S. die each day from alcohol abuse, Ms. Laube said.

Seventh- and eighth-graders were then asked to list three people they love, three possessions important to them, three activities they enjoy and three characteristics about themselves that they find important. One by one, Ms. Laube had them strip from their lists the people and items they would lose based on negative behaviors.

You come home late from a party smelling of alcohol and cigarette smoke. Give up one of your possessions.

You go to a friend’s house after a ballgame and drink enough beer to wake up the next day with a hangover. Give up one activity and one characteristic that are important to you.
Drinking is becoming a favorite pastime. Get rid of one person you listed and one characteristic you liked about yourself.

You’re drinking daily, get suspended from school and are arguing with friends and family members. Give up another person and another characteristic.

Following a weekend party, you get stopped and charged with driving while intoxicated. Give up one possession and one activity.

Alcohol is now consuming your life. Your student partner will tear up two things left on your list. You have nothing to say about what is taken from you.

“This is exactly the way that alcoholism works,” Ms. Laube told the stunned students, each left holding a single piece of paper. For some, it was a person or a pet. For others, a favorite sport or activity.

She spoke about peer pressure and the difficulty of resisting it.

“People follow what they see and not what they know,” Ms. Laube said. To drive that point home, she put the students through a simple exercise. First, she clearly instructed students to clap after she counted to three. But when she herself clapped after counting to only two, most of those in the room followed suit, despite having been told several times not to clap until she got to three.

“You will find that opportunity in your lifetime when you have to make that decision” about behavior, Ms. Laube said. “You’ll have a split second to make a choice.”

The lesson for the sixth-graders, from both Greenport and Oysterponds, was less brutal. But it still hammered home the message that opting to drink would lead to decisions that would make them feel bad about themselves.

Those students watched a video that stated: “When people feel good about themselves, they make good decisions.” Find what you like about yourself and hold tightly to it, Ms. Laube urged.

Students were told that alcohol is toxic and changes the way their brains work. They also heard that their brains aren’t fully developed until they reach their mid-20s and that early drinking can impede that development.

“Everybody is impacted and everyone can turn out, whether they like it or not, to be addicted,” Ms. Laube warned.

On the following night, Oct. 27, Ms. Laube shared a more sophisticated lesson with parents about how it important it is for the entire community to focus on helping students avoid alcohol abuse.

“They were concerned parents who definitely wanted to educate themselves” about signs that their children might be drinking, said school social worker Jillian Ruroede. The most significant message to the parents, she said, was that they are role models for their children.

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