FLORENCE, S.C. — Prom season is coming soon. For some students, what started as a special night could end in a jail cell if they are found to be drinking, or in possession of alcohol, as a minor. A new video campaign targeting students going to prom or celebrating spring break, entitled “Don’t Let Drinking Ruin Your Prom,” shows students one of the hazards of underage drinking. The campaign was introduced by Circle Park Behavioral Health Services during a press conference Tuesday. The new campaign, which shows a teen getting ready for prom, ends with the teen in her prom dress getting her mug shot taken. The video will run on television for a six-week stretch leading up to prom season.
Courtney Squires, a senior at Johnsonville High School, spoke on behalf of her school’s Teen Institute, a group that promotes living a healthy lifestyle. “Teenagers enjoy being defiant and not listening to adults,” Squires said. “Kids often forget when you drink on prom night, and if you end up driving, you not only affect your own life, you can end up ruining other peoples’ lives, too.” Squires said she and the others at the Teen Institute were involved with Circle Park because they know that teenagers are more likely to listen when their peers talk, rather than a parent. She said that as she and others look forward to college, it is important to say no to underage drinking because future plans can end suddenly when drinking and driving.
Randy Cole, CEO of Circle Park, told the audience that around 70 percent of alcohol consumed by underage drinkers comes from social areas, including the teens’ parents. Cole and Florence Police Chief Anson Shells said parents need to remember that they can also end up in jail for providing alcohol to minors. As a parent of a former addict, Wanda Hardee, a member of Circle Park’s governance board, said that she cannot comprehend what parents are thinking when they provide underage teens with any type of substance. She also stressed the importance of getting involved in talking to teens about substance abuse, especially teen-to-teen. “I loved it, absolutely loved it (that Squires came to talk),” Hardee said. “Every voice counts. Somebody’s got to make a difference. If it’s going to be me, it will be me. You can’t be silent. If you do, we’ll lose our kids.”
Circle Park is partnering with the South Carolina Highway Patrol, the 12th Circuit Alcohol Enforcement Team and the Florence County Coalition for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention for the prom season campaign. The law enforcement officers will be patrolling parties, parking lots and restaurants, looking for any minors that may be drinking. They will also be checking local establishments to make sure that they are not selling to minors. The goal of the campaign is to “promote a zero tolerance for underage drinking which leads to zero tragedies,” according to a Circle Park press release.