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Students fight back against underage drinking

NOTE: Kathy Staats emailed WEAU 13 News late Wednesday, saying the actual statistic she referred to in this story is that 68% of 12th graders (not 12-year-olds) have used alcohol in the last month in Eau Claire County.

As drivers and other people stopped to stare at the posters several of the students used as part of a human billboard near Clairemont Avenue in Eau Claire Wednesday afternoon, Memorial High School Senior Jessica Gumbert says she hopes they understood that it was an attempt to change what the Eau Claire City-County Health Department calls a problem of underage drinking.

“We are taking approaches that will get the message across and to pretty much put it in people's face that this isn't ok, and it's a risk that shouldn't be taken,” she said.

Gumbert and almost 80 others from North, Memorial, Regis, Altoona, Fall Creek, and Augusta high schools volunteered to learn about how drinking can affect the livers and brains of teenagers and children.

“Surveys say that most 12-year-olds, 68% actually, have used alcohol in the last month, in Eau Claire County,” said Kathy Staats, Youth Coordinator from the Eau Claire City-County Health Department (Kathy Staats emailed WEAU 13 News late Wednesday, saying the actual statistic she referred to in this story is that 68% of 12th graders (not 12-year-olds) have used alcohol in the last month in Eau Claire County.).

Then it was all about getting the word out with community campaigns like this one. The students cleaned off car windows and left cards calling for safe and sober driving.

"It's neat to see 29.43 when someone actually understands and connects to what we're showing."

Once they get back to school, another goal is to pass that message on to students that didn't attend the workshop today.

In fact, they're committing to taking part in an activism campaign once a month to spread the word.

“The tattoo ideas were amazing...going out to basketball games in the winter and stamping your hands, that's a really good way to get it out,” said Memorial Sophomore Ka Vue.

Jessica says she hopes the message is alarming, and that it's stronger than peer pressure in her community.

"Once you say no and you know why, it's so easy to say no again,” she said.

Now she's just hoping she can help convince her classmates and neighbors to follow that trend.

This is the second consecutive year for the SADD training in Eau Claire.

Eau Claire Police say a first-time underage drinking ticket would cost a 17 to 20-year-old more than $263. The department ticketed almost 1,700 underage drinkers in 2008.


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