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Parents get schooled about teen drinking

Youth panel talks about the realities of alcohol-related pressures
By: Melody Stone, Journal Staff Writer
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Deejay Marez, a Del Oro High School freshman, she said she started partying at a very early age. “I was 11 years old partying with high-schoolers and college students,” Marez said. “There were guys out of high school hitting on me.” Marez talked about the pressures youth face, which leads them to drink. Those pressures can originate from peers, school, or the home. “Kids often start (drinking) because of stress in the home life,” Marez said. Placer County youth bared their souls about the realities of the teen-drinking scene for the sake of parents at a town hall meeting Tuesday night. The Placer Youth Commission and the Coalition for Placer Youth co-sponsored the meeting to give parents information about what youth are doing in terms of drugs and alcohol and the dangers of teen drinking. A panel of high school students shared their experiences with the parents and students in the Bowman Charter School multi-purpose room. Placer High School Sophomore Derek Ikeda facilitated the teen panel and said he is committed to not drinking alcohol as a teen. “I play a lot of sports,” Ikeda said before the meeting. “It never occurred to me to start drinking.” The teens talked about the intensity and regularity with which their peers partake in heavy drinking. Rocklin High School Senior Isabel Lopez serves as public relations officer for the Placer Youth Commission. She said she never drank alcohol, but knows many friends involved in the party scene. Lopez said drinking games are very popular with youth. “They play drinking Jenga,” Lopez said. “It puts a competitive edge and basically leads to more drinking.” Lopez said not having a driver’s license wasn’t what kept her from partying. Lopez said via social networking Web sites like Facebook and Twitter teens learn about parties and will drive as far away as Chico to get drunk. Lopez said if she wanted a ride, she could find one. Whitney High School student Kaylie Marshall said teens are sneaking out shots from different alcohol bottles in the home and mixing them together. Marshall said vodka is a very popular drink because it quickly intoxicates the drinker. Christy Crandell spoke as a parent and the director of Full Circle Treatment Center. She said her son became so involved in drugs and alcohol he committed armed robbery while under the influence of marijuana and cough syrup. He was trying to get more money for drugs, Crandell said. Her son is now serving 13 years in Folsom State Prison as a result of that incident. With Crandell’s cautionary tale she gave the parents words of advice. “Be awake when they come home,” Crandell said. “Engage them in conversation. Give them a big hug and a sniff.” Crandell said she was unaware of her son’s addiction and missed all the signs. “I was definitely in denial,” Crandell said. Placer County Sheriff Ed Bonner also spoke at the meeting as a law enforcement officer and a parent. He called on parents to set a good example and go so far as drug testing their teens. “You’ve got to educate yourself,” Bonner said. “These kids are looking at us. We have to be role models.” After hearing the testimony from law enforcement, parents and teens, Auburn resident and mom Kris Belk said she felt the night was worthwhile. “It’s sad that (teens) are exposed to so much,” Belk said. “I just feel even more educated.” Bowman seventh-grader Delaney Belk said she does not plan on drinking in high school. “Because you can die from it,” she said. Marez said her mom was depressed and her brother has special needs. Marez said drinking provided an escape from the pressures of taking care of her family. In fourth grade Marez said she started using prescription drugs and in seventh grade her drinking got so bad she became suicidal. Marez admits her case was extreme. She said her friends from that time in her life are still involved in drugs and alcohol and she counts herself lucky she didn’t get addicted. Eventually, Marez got help and got sober and is now actively involved in anti-teen drinking programs and the Placer Youth Commission. Marez said her mom never asked where she was going and she felt like her mom didn’t care. “I wish she would have asked,” Marez said.