Alcohol-free club for teens under consideration

March 08, 1995|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

A group of North Carroll parents is trying to start a nonprofit club that would give high school students a place to dance, play video games, shoot pool or just hang out without the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

"It would be someplace where they can go without spending a lot of money," said Bonnie Beurer, of Houcksville Road in Hampstead. She is leading the effort with her husband, Joseph Beurer, and another mother, Diann Davis.

So far, they're calling the venture CC PRIDES, an acronym for Carroll County Parents Responsible in Daily Effort of Students.

The Beurers and Ms. Davis said they became interested in starting a program for teens when their sons, who are good friends, were suspended for the rest of the school year from North Carroll High School. Both boys were involved with drugs, although their expulsions were related to separate incidents, according to their parents.

This week and next, the three parents and a few student volunteers will survey students at the county's high schools to gauge interest in the project. They're also trying to line up support and grants from the county commissioners, Rep. Roscoe E. Bartlett and private business, such as Mr. Beurer's employer, Random House.

"They all want to see numbers," Mr. Beurer said. "The first thing Roscoe Bartlett asked was, 'How many students are we talking about?' "

The owner of some vacant commercial space in the North Carroll area has offered a place rent-free for the first three months, but the parents are waiting for the surveys to tell them how large a place they'll need.

The three are asking students whether they would join such a club, how much they would be willing to pay in dues, what kind of entertainment they would want, and whether they now go to under-21 clubs.

Yesterday, they were at North Carroll High School. They were to be at Westminster High today and at Carroll County Career and Technology Center tomorrow. Next week they will be at the remaining three high schools.

At North Carroll, they collected 650 surveys with help from five student volunteers during lunch periods. Some 205 students said they would go to such a facility and signed up to help start it. Another 356 students said they would go but did not volunteer to work, and 89 students said they weren't interested.

The parents and students said they must do a lot of homework and planning for this effort to succeed, but that it's worth it.

"I don't want [any] parent going through what I've gone through the last two months," Mr. Beurer said.

"What we've all gone through," Ms. Davis added.

"They don't know how it can disrupt a family in a heartbeat," Mr. Beurer said.

The two families have paid lawyers and substance-abuse counselors to help their children, and the expenses have strained their family budgets, they said.

"When our sons started talking to us, they told us about [the extent of drug use]" among high school students, Ms. Davis said.

The parents also learned about under-21 clubs and raves -- large, informal dance parties that often feature illicit drugs. Their children were going to these clubs and raves in Baltimore, Baltimore County and beyond.

The Beurers learned that their son had taken a bus trip to a rave in New York City. He had claimed to be spending the night at a friend's house.

Sunshine Genco, 17, a North Carroll student who volunteered to help conduct the survey and plan the club, said she's never been to a rave but many North Carroll students go to them.

"Some kids say there aren't drugs at some of them, but other kids say that's where they go to get drugs," Sunshine said.

She said the club could be a success because there are few alternatives in Carroll County, and teen-agers' weekend night life consists of going to a mall, skating in Hanover, Pa., or going to small parties or gatherings, often where drugs or alcohol are available.

"I think it's going to be a hit right away," Sunshine said. She said the best part is that the club would be nonprofit and started by parents rather than as a business.

"They're not in it for themselves, they're in it for us," she said.

Mr. Beurer got the idea from his elder son, a welder at Marada Industries. J. C. Beurer was a senior at North Carroll four years ago when he considered starting a for-profit under-21 club in a vacant shopping center on Lower Beckleysville Road. But the zoning requirements and other bureaucratic problems were too great, the elder Mr. Beurer said.

The CC PRIDES club could be open seven days a week, with hours that don't conflict with school or laws governing how late teens can be out driving, Mr. Beurer said.

Dues will depend on how many members join. The surveys indicate students would be willing to pay $20 or $25 a month.

Members could drop in anytime the club is open. Food and nonalcoholic drinks would be available at no more than a 10 percent markup, Mr. Beurer said.

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