Freshmen Warned on Underage Drinking

Robin Wyckoff  ’15
Senior Features Editor

On November 12, 2013 the Trumbull Partnership for Underage Drinking (TPAUD) sponsored its annual Underage Drinking Forum at Trumbull High School for students and their parents. This 2 ½ hour program is put on every year for all Trumbull High School freshmen. Because there are so many students, the freshman classes are broken up into two groups. Students with last names A-G were in the gym and students with last names H-Z were in the auditorium. Link Crew Leaders, some sports team members, and the Trumbull Police Explorer Post #659 were recruited to help parents get around and to help students stay focused. The night for everyone started out with a performance of the National Anthem from the THS Chamber Singers and from there Mr. Guarino, and Dr. Cialfi introduced the assembly.

The night’s speakers were introduced by Trumbull High School students, Jacquelyn and Sydney Sheehan. In the auditorium, the first speaker was Officer Tim Fedor. He has been on the Trumbull Police force for 13 years and has worked countless hours dealing with the youth of Trumbull. Officer Fedor brought attention to a paper with the “Alcohol Statutes for Minors” on it. This paper was included in a folder with numerous pamphlets including a survey for parents and one for students as well. Officer Fedor went over these laws and also brought up the Trumbull Underage Drinking Tips Line. This tips line can be a major asset to students involved in underage drinking. All you have to do is send out and anonymous text message to 274637 (CRIMES) with a location and the acronym TRPD. After he mentioned the tips line, Officer Fedor warned students and parents about Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) association in underage drinking situations. The DMV gets involved even if a vehicle is not involved. In cases of alcohol related infractions, a minor’s license will be suspended for 60 days and if the minor is not licensed they will have to wait an additional 150 days before they are eligible to get their license.

Next up was Mrs. Audrey Felsen, Esq. and Mr. Thomas Tesoro. They informed the crowd of social host laws. It states on one of the hand-outs that “Effective October 1, 2012 anyone of any age in ‘control over any dwelling unit or private property’ can be liable if teens are caught drinking on the property.” Along with this they also talked about how insurance policies are affected. Your insurance rate skyrockets when you are involved in any sort of underage drinking situation. Also, Trumbull has a zero-tolerance policy. Felsen and Tesoro also warned that if you are put on trial a judge will sentence you due to this zero-tolerance policy and also to send a message. It needs to be made clear that underage drinking has very severe consequences.

Speaking of consequences, Mrs. Colleen Sheehey-Church spoke next. Colleen shared a personal story about her son. Her son Dustin was killed in a car accident. He was not drinking but the driver and the other two passengers were. Dustin the only sober teen was also the only one killed. The others managed to escape the car that was quickly sinking in the Housatonic River, but were too drunk to help Dustin. Colleen had to get this tragic news of her son passing late one night. It is never easy for a mother to receive news like this and it should never be necessary. Colleen then played a video montage showing pictures of Dustin through the years. This video paired with a customized version of “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercy Me always brings tears to people’s eyes. This story proves that you don’t even have to be drinking to be at risk. It also reminds teens never to get behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated or to let someone who is drive.

Trumbull High School’s Intervention Specialist, Mr. William Mecca, then quickly spoke about the consequences related to school and how the school can be a resource.  Trumbull High is an amazing place for students in trouble. There are so many trusted adults around and great and helpful programs for students to participate in, like Peer mediators. There is a pamphlet with an extensive list of clubs included in the folders.

Next Dr. Gary Kaml, MD spoke about his role in underage drinking. As a trauma surgeon at Yale-New Haven Hospital in New Haven, CT, Dr. Kaml sees firsthand the consequences associated with underage drinking. Kaml shared horror stories about bloody scenes he was involved in, but also showed pictures of more slow medical problems related to alcohol abuse. Kaml shared a story of a time when a student asked “Doesn’t all the guts and blood bother you?” His answer was a confident “No”. He expressed to the audience that you get used to that, and that it is not the part of his job that bothers him. Dr. Kaml then said that the worst part of his job is the quiet room. The quiet room is a moderately sound proof room that doctors use to deliver news. Sometimes this news is positive, but sadly the news is often very grave. Kaml divulged that the quiet room is such a terrifying room to enter. Reactions are always unknown and they can be very painful.

Then as a way to connect more to the students, three Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) members, Kyle, Kate, and Emily shared personal stories about alcohol abuse and how they have reached a point of recovery. Their stories were very inspiring but also very relatable. Each of them mentioned that “I never thought this would happen to me”, which is a thought that every teen thinks. They each in their own way were able to show how unexpected a dependency is and how quickly it can begin. These three young adults were a very powerful and educational addition to the forum.

Lastly, Melissa McGarry spoke to sum up the program. She is the Trumbull Public School’s TPAUD Coordinator. Her short presentation was a great end to the program and was well worth listening to. She introduced some new information regarding the TPAUD organization and also reminded students what the tip line was and how to use it.

The Underage Drinking Forum is a very powerful assembly for freshmen. Every Trumbull High student is required to participate and for good reason. This forum is beneficial and educational for everyone involved.

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