SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — April marks Alcohol Awareness Month and a local organization is continuing its mission to help prevent underage drinking.
This month, Beyond the Bell Savannah, is offering free training programs that educate families about the impacts of consuming alcohol at a young age.
A Georgia Student Health Survey of 14,123 students in the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System found that 92% of sixth through 12th-grade students reported that they did not drink alcohol within the 30 days of the survey.
However, 17% reported having had their first drink of alcohol at age 15 or younger and 4% of students were 8 years old or younger, the survey showed.
“We’ve been in the City of Savannah for about five years, and it is Beyond the Bell’s mission to prevent underage substance use,” explained region 5 project coordinator Lindsey Grovenstein.
“Currently, we focus on alcohol, marijuana and tobacco, and we focus on youth ages 9 through 20,” Grovenstein said.
Their curriculum includes the Botvin Lifeskills Training Program that the organization will host this month.
The program is seven weeks long. Grovenstein said it’s designed to promote mental health and positive youth development.
“It’s an evidence-based curriculum that’s proven to reduce drug use as well as violence and the core of this program is to teach life skills,” she said.
During Alcohol Awareness Month, these sessions are available to students through the Urban Hope After School Program and starting April 5.
Last Thursday, Beyond the Bell held a class at the Whitefield Center and plans to host them at the Frank Callen Boys & Girls Club beginning next month.
“The very first class that we do is self-image, because how you see yourself is how you behave in the world,” Grovenstein said.
“We teach them decision-making and we sprinkle drug resistance skills in there,” she added.
The Botvin Lifeskills Training also includes classes on the myths and realities of using tobacco, marijuana and vape products or drinking alcohol; coping with anxiety and anger; communication and conflict resolution.
Grovenstein said it’s also crucial for parents to understand the best ways to steer their children clear of drugs and alcohol.
Beyond the Bell Savannah also offers complimentary sessions for parents that show them how to protect their kids from alcohol use as well as alcohol use signs to look out for.
“I think it’s so important for parents to make sure that they are having these types of critical conversations around alcohol, how it affects you, how your brain is still developing and still maturing until [around] age 25,” Grovenstein said.
“That’s why it’s important for youth to abstain, because drugs, by definition, is anything that affects your brain, so when your brain is developing and you’re still learning how to deal with life and all the emotions, and you mix alcohol in there, it doesn’t mix,” she said.
She adds that educating youth about the risks goes beyond merely stating, “just say no.”
“You need to have the data-driven facts, but it’s not just about ‘don’t do this’; when you say no to drugs, what are you saying yes to?” Grovenstein said.
“[It’s about] just making sure that you’re acknowledging their good choices as well as telling them to abstain from bad ones,” she added.