When it comes to curbing underage drinking, the focus seems to be mostly on discouraging kids from doing it.
But last week, just before prom at Morris Community High School, a group of students turned the focus on the adults who could potentially enable them.
Members of TROUPE (Teens Resisting Our Universe’s Problems Effectively), the school’s drug- and alcohol-free club, went to local liquor stores to put bottleneck tags on beer which read: “Your actions matter! Preventing underage drinking is everyone’s responsibility.”
According to TROUPE sponsor Celia Mistretta, a science teacher at MCHS, the idea was to discourage legal adults from buying liquor for underage kids.
“It’s the little part the kids could do to keep people from contributing to the problem of underage drinking,” Mistretta said.
One of the students, junior Jacqueline Murphy, said she was glad to do her part.
“It’s a really good cause,” Murphy said. “It didn’t seem like work.”
Another participant, sophomore Ian Bashor, said it was especially important in the context of prom season.
“There’s so much that goes on during prom,” said Bashor, who is Mistretta’s son.
Bashor said it’s a good start, but that there’s room to grow to get the message out.
The tags, for instance, only allowed the group to mark bottles.
“It is pretty effective,” he said. “But we’ve only scratched the surface.”
The event, sponsored by the Illinois Liquor Control Commission, has been held every year for the last four years, previously under the name Project Sticker Shock.
According to the campaign’s promotional material, the event is designed to reinforce positive behavior in adult customers.
This year, the students put tags on items in West Side Liquors, Four Seasons Liquors and Feeney’s Package Liquors in Morris.
Mike Feeney, owner of Feeney’s, said his store participates every year because it sends a positive message.
“It sends a message to adults that they need to be smart and not purchase for minors products that are really meant for adults,” Feeney said.
“That’s obviously a good message.”
Mistretta said the participation of the stores is important to the campaign’s success.
“[Store owners] are thrilled to see us every year,” she said.
The group plans to tag bottles at Morris Liquor closer to graduation, which Mistretta said is also a big time for underage drinking.
Mistretta said it is hard to know exactly how effective it is, but that it is important to get the message out.
“It’s hard to gauge how many people [the tags deter],” Mistretta said. “But if we could make just one or two people reconsider buying for a minor, I’d say it’s a success.”