A Safe Vacation's In The Bag

March 09, 1994|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,Contributing Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- "Get your lollipops, gum and condoms," the University of Maryland College Park student shouted in carnival-barker patter, as she stood surrounded by colorful balloons and free prizes.

Dozens of students paused yesterday to take what Priya Sridharan had to offer -- a free "Safe Break" bag that included a lollipop, gum, four latex condoms and tips on having a safe spring vacation.

The Safe Break program promotes safe sex, safe tanning, healthy eating, no drugs and responsible drinking over spring break, which begins Saturday.

By yesterday afternoon, student volunteers had handed out more than 1,500 bags at the student union and other buildings on campus.

They hope to distribute another 2,000 by the time students head for Myrtle Beach, New Orleans and the Florida beaches.

"Spring break is usually a time for big-time partying that can involve sun, fun, sex and alcohol," said Patricia A. Perillo, a coordinator for alcohol and drug education programs.

"We just want to remind students to think and be responsible before doing something they'll regret.

"We found that giving away free things with informational tip sheets really made students respond more than making them listen to lectures about being responsible."

Gifts in the bags were emblazoned with slogans such as "Don't Drink and Drive" and "Do the Safe Thing."

"With these bags and free gifts, the whole point is to connect safety with spring break," Ms. Perillo said.

Many of the students who stopped for a Safe Break bag commended the program's safe sex message.

"I think it's great, and it's for a good cause because there are diseases out there that people don't think about," said sophomore Kirk Douglas, 21. "It's kind of embarrassing for most people to go out and buy condoms, so this helps."

Other students weren't as enthusiastic.

"I guess it's a good idea for people who are sexually active, but personally, I think it's more of a bad idea," said sophomore Seong Jeon, 19, who took the free bag but decided to throw the condoms away. "I practice abstinence. It's the only sure way you can prevent diseases."

Mie Cho, a 20-year-old junior majoring in education, also took a bag, but objected to the "somewhat offensive" message.

"I don't think they should be passing out condoms, because it almost seems like they're promoting sexual activity. I'm not saying it's a bad program, I guess it's good in some ways. But I personally didn't agree with the message."

The Safe Break program was started 10 years ago by the Caring Coalition, an umbrella organization for groups and individuals working to prevent alcohol and drug abuse among Maryland students.

Whether students agreed with the program's message yesterday, they went away well-equipped to have a safe spring break.

Senior Ben Werner for example, had a "better safe than sorry" attitude. "It's a good idea because a lot of people . . . jump into things without thinking," said Mr. Werner, 21, an American studies major. "If they have [the bag], they'll use it.

"Will [the bag] come in handy for me? It might," he added. "Just don't tell my mom."

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