Church Youths Making Video On Dangers Of Drinking

March 22, 1992|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff writer

Jocelyn Haynes, an eighth-grader at Bel Air Middle School, says she already is feeling pressure from her peers to drink alcohol.

Many of her classmates, the 13-year-old says, believe they have to drink beer when at parties to be seen as cool.

"It's a big issue nowadays," Jocelyn says. "We are all pressured into it."

But Jocelyn and about 30 fellow members of a Bel Air church group for youths are working on what they hope will be a way to help stem the drinking problem.

The Bel Air United Methodist Youth Fellowship is making a videotape to show the effects and dangers of drinking too much too early in life.

The youths have interviewed members of Alcoholics Anonymous, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Students Against Drunk Driving. They also have taped a group discussion on alcohol and mock field-sobriety tests conducted by police when stopping a suspected drunk driver.

The group, whose members are between 11 and 14 years old, filmed the video with the help of their counselor, Gary Webb, director of youth programs at Bel Air United Methodist Church.

The youths have six hours of footage they want to cut toabout 20 minutes.

Webb says the videotape will be shown to churchmembers and then distributed to other church groups for donations, which will go toward paying for the youth fellowship's activities.

Tracey Webb, Gary Webb's daughter and one of Jocelyn's eighth-grade classmates, says youths learn about alcohol and its dangers in class. School courses, however, show students little about the effects of drinking. She hopes the video will make up for that.

Middle school students are not too young to learn about alcohol, Tracey says.

"There are kids in our grade who have been drinking for a long time," says Tracey, 13. "It's pathetic."

In the video, three AA members saythey started drinking between the ages of 9 and 13.

One man, who started drinking at age 11 and is now in his 50s, says on the video that he would go on binges lasting two or three days without telling his family where he was. When his wife made him choose between her andalcohol, the man says, he left home.

The youths later heard Mary MacKnight, one of Harford MADD's founders, explain the pain her family experienced when her 20-year-old son, John, was killed in a trafficaccident involving a drunken driver.

Another portion of the videoshows what a drunken driver goes through if stopped by police. Two church counselors, including Gary Webb, drank vodka until they were intoxicated and then took Breathalyzer and sobriety tests.

Kimberly Schaffel, of Harford MADD, says the video will send youths a message.

"I think it's going to make young people stop and think that it could be them, that they could easily be the victim of drunk driving,"she says.

Fellowship members have taken a pledge that they will not drink alcohol for three years. At the end of that period, when most are juniors in high school, they will discuss their experiences andconsider taking a similar pledge.

After making the video, the youths say, they don't even want to try alcohol.

"We don't want to get involved in this kind of thing," Jocelyn says.

"I think we all realize how much damage it can do."

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