Three local high schools are taking steps to empower students to make the right choices during prom. Starting this week, Prom Pledge will begin, urging students to commit to keeping themselves and others safe from the dangers of drinking and driving.
“Prom Pledge nationally became big in 2000,” said Denise McIntyre in a phone interview Thursday. McIntyre is the 4-H prevention coordinator at the Cooperative Extension office in Sampson County.
Wrecked cars have been one of the dramatic scenes used to promote the program as a visual reminder of what can happen when someone drinks and drives.
Prom Pledge was started by Mothers Against Drunk Driving due to a period of high deaths occurring nationwide from underage drinking during prom and spring break, with the death toll reaching approximately 600 to 700.
Sampson County started the program five years ago, and the joint venture is a partnership between Eastpointe Behavioral Health and 4-H. McIntyre said she meets with the students at the local high schools during lunch, setting up a booth with a banner that the students can sign, pledging not to drink and drive or ride with someone who has been drinking.
“Students think they are safer just because they are not driving, and they aren’t,” stressed McIntyre of the prevalent misconception. “They are in just as much danger riding with someone who is intoxicated as driving intoxicated themselves,” she asserted, adding that the drinking isn’t just during prom time but also afterwards during spring break when students go to the beach.
For some of the students it is perhaps the first time that they have been out on their own unsupervised, lending to the trend of making choices that are not as safe as ones they would make normally.
“We also want to arm parents with information,” stressed McIntyre of the program’s awareness campaign that continues right up until — and during — the prom.. “The parents may need to give the students extra money so they can take a cab home.”
She also encourages parents to remind the students that they can call the parents for a ride home if a situation warrants.
While abstinence from underage drinking is preferable, it’s a good step to ensure teens are aware there are options available to them should they make an unwise choice.
She also wants teenagers to understand that just because friends may brag about drinking, they might not actually be partaking.
“Kids think there are a lot more (students) doing things than there really are,” McIntyre detailed. She said that most students are not drinking like they want others to believe they are.
Newsletters from 4-H with more information about Prom Pledge are given to schools and put in the offices for parents. She said that they also reach out to parents at health fairs through the schools as a way of increased awareness..
This year Lakewood, Clinton High and Union High are the three schools participating in Prom Pledge. McIntyre visited each school last week, the days leading up to this week’s proms.
“In the last three years we have not had any fatal accidents (from drinking and driving) during prom or graduation,” said McIntyre. “This has proven to be positive and keeps it in the minds of the students.” She also said that the schools have been cracking down by checking students for alcohol before they come to prom, another step that is proving very effective.
“Lots of students in the past have said that (Prom Pledge) is a positive,” she added. Getting the promise from students that they will not ride with someone who has been drinking gets the student thinking about holding themselves accountable.
McIntyre said that getting them to realize that not riding with someone who has been drinking my not be saving someone else’s life, but it gets the students thinking about how they are saving their own lives.
“We get them to pledge to be safe for themselves, to empower them,” she said. “It is important to get them to empower themselves.”
Emily M. Hobbs can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 122 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.