Just west of Highway 99 on Maze Boulevard stands a wish and a warning – from teens for teens.
“Intoxication leads to no graduation” reads a billboard standing above a weed-choked planting strip. Beside the words, a robed graduate looks down the road at a liquor store, her back to another. Timed to prom and graduation days, the idea is to make kids think twice before drinking or riding with a drunken driver.
“We wanted to reach out to a wider community, also trying to reach out to adults and guardians, saying they have the responsibility to make sure kids are making the right choices, too,” said Felix Hernandez, a senior at Modesto High.
Hernandez is part of the Friday Night Live and Community Youth Connection student groups mentored by the nonprofit Center for Human Services. The Friday Night Live Modesto chapter was awarded a $5,000 grant for their campaign against underage drinking, which is considered a model for the state, said adviser Martha Rodriguez, a center prevention specialist.
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77 Percentage of teens who say there is alcohol at parties they attend.
The teens’ billboard, up for four weeks starting mid-April, took $800 of that, the only real expense so far for them.
It cost nothing to take a walk around Modesto High and see that three liquor stores are within a stone’s throw of the campus, and that cigarette butts and broken beer bottles litter the surrounding streets.
“We were trying to find what was a problem in our local community – issues bring solutions,” said Sergio Maravilla, also a senior at the school.
But was having liquor around an issue for teens who, legally speaking, do not drink?
“We do know (underage drinking) is a problem,” Hernandez said. To get the numbers to back it up, they surveyed 133 Modesto high school students.
The results: 77 percent say there is alcohol at parties they attend, 38 percent know someone who has had a bad experience with alcohol, and 82 percent know an underage drinker.
We were trying to find what was a problem in our local community – issues bring solutions.
“It was a little bit of a face the facts situation,” said Sam Moncayo, 18, who attends the Come Back Kids diploma program.
The group crafted an anti-drinking message taped and sent out over the Modesto City Schools robo-call system just before spring break. They have talked to area liquor stores about stepping up ID checks on liquor sales. But the billboard took their message to new heights.
On campus, several of the Friday Night Live teens said they have overheard conversations about the billboard and its message on underage drinking.
“It’s actually working,” Hernandez said.