Southern Maine students help raise awareness about underage drinking

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YARMOUTH — When shopping for alcohol or ordering a pizza, residents here and in Freeport, Cumberland and Falmouth may see bright orange stickers that say “If you care about teens, don’t provide the means.”

The stickers are a part of Project Sticker Shock, a program created to promote safety and prevent underage drinking.

Students from several teen groups in Freeport, Falmouth and Yarmouth schools are collaborating with their police departments and Casco Bay Create Awareness Now to promote the national and state-wide youth alcohol prevention project. Students from Cumberland are expected to join the program in the next few weeks.

Beth Blakeman-Pohl, the Drug-Free Communities coordinator of Casco Bay CAN, based at 53 Depot St., Freeport, said the coalition is made up of local individuals, schools, law enforcement agencies, organizations, and businesses who work together to prevent and reduce youth substance abuse.

“The students help guide us with the message and the most effective way to get that message out, ” Blakeman-Pohl said. “The theme, ‘If you care about teens, don’t provide the means,’ came from the students.”

More than 30 students volunteered to be a part of the project. They visited gas stations, supermarkets, big-box stores, convenience stores and restaurants. This is the first year stickers were placed on pizza boxes to spread the word even more.

Jimmy Polewaczyk, a senior and four-year member of the Natural Helpers Program at Falmouth High School, said the project is important because drinking and drugs are a problem in the area.

“This program addresses the root of the problem and that is identifying where the alcohol comes from,” he said. “The stickers make a difference because they bring attention to the product. They are bright and have a good, long-lasting effect.”

Blakeman-Pohl said Casco Bay CAN is made possible by a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and is sponsored by Cumberland County government.

The organization is involved in community drug take-back events, educational talks with parents to discuss and identify trends in the schools, and workshops with businesses that sell or serve alcohol.

Adam Nappi, owner of Bow Street Market in Freeport, said he is proud to be a partner in Project Sticker Shock and to be involved in making the community a safe place for students and residents.

“Project Sticker Shock promotes an active awareness regarding furnishing liquor to minors and outlines some consequences for doing so,” Nappi said in an email. “Bow Street Market’s core mission is to be part of a caring community and Project Sticker Shock is a great way to be an active participant. Our hats are off to the students and Freeport Police Department for being engaged.”

Yarmouth Police Department Lt. Dean Perry said when members of a community work together to raise awareness, a program like this is inevitably successful.

“The stickers placed on alcohol are more directed to the adults, warning them of the dangers of providing alcohol to minors,” he said. “The pizza stickers promote awareness in a way to reach an entire family. It is a conversation starter for adults and kids.”

Freeport school resource officer Michael McManus said the stickers provide a reminder to adults about underage drinking.

“It makes a difference that the students are involved in the project,” he said. “It shows that it is a grassroots effort to raise awareness and prevent underage drinking. It is pretty powerful.”

Blakeman-Pohl said volunteers, law enforcement agencies, businesses and students plan to host the project again in the spring during prom and graduation.

“There are a lot of graduation and prom gatherings and college students come home during this time,” she said. “It’s a time for us to make sure the information gets out there and adults are aware of the laws and rules associated with underage drinking.”

Students involved in any after-school programs, sports group or faith organization are encouraged to participate, Blakeman-Pohl said, by calling her at 869-1008 or going to the Casco Bay CAN website.

“We would love to have more students, adults and law enforcement officers on board to help spread the word,” she said. “This gives the students a great voice in their own community. They are telling people they want to be safe, they want their friends to be safe.”

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@thforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @amy_k_anderson

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Freeport students place orange stickers on alcoholic beverages at Shaw’s supermarket as part of Project Sticker Shock. The students visited several restaurants and stores to spread the message “If you care about teens, don’t provide the means.”

Yarmough students Abby Latham, Madeline Anderson, and Jordan Brown present a certificate of appreciation to Jon Kyle, owner of Pat’s Pizza, for his participation in Project Sticker Shock. Lt. Dean Perry of the Yarmouth Police Department and Phyllis Latham, Freeport Middle School guidance counselor, are in the back row.

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