SOLEDAD — Youth in Monterey County Friday Night Live (FNL) have launched a campaign this year to tackle underage drinking throughout the region, including in Soledad.
Friday Night Live builds partnerships for positive and healthy development, engaging youth as active leaders and resources in their communities to create positive changes on important issues that matter to them.
Due in large part to changes in legislation and prevention efforts, there has been a 34.5% decline in the prevalence of drinking among 12- to 20-year-olds since 2004, yet alcohol remains the most widely used substance amongst youth in the United States.
Young people in Soledad are on a mission to ensure that underage drinking rates continue to decline.
“To me, Friday Night Live means somewhere I can be comfortable, make new friends and be myself,” said Chinemerem, member of the FNL Soledad High School Chapter.
According to County Coordinator Lesa Rubalcava, there is a common misconception that all young people are participating in underage drinking. Misleading depictions of youth perpetuate this false narrative in film, television and social media.
“Due to the saturation of these images and messages, many young people may feel isolated in their decision not to drink,” Rubalcava said. “The behaviors that a group, such as teens, believes to be acceptable are called social norms, and social norms have been proven to influence behavior.”
Members of Friday Night Live have launched a multi-media initiative to counter negative stereotypes of youth’s relation to alcohol and promote positive social norms by highlighting the stories of their peers choosing healthy behaviors and remaining alcohol-free.
With support from the California Friday Night Live Partnership and a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, students have utilized environmental prevention strategies through youth-led initiatives to educate their peers, neighbors and local leaders on ways to reduce underage drinking.
“I love Friday Night Live because they’ve helped me so much and they give such a positive and productive environment to be in,” said Serina, member of the FNL Pinnacles High School Chapter in Soledad. “FNL has changed my life. Without the opportunities they have given me, I don’t know where I would be. It really saved my life and helped me be in a better place than I used to be.”
Throughout the year-long campaign, youth in FNL receive training on data collection, environmental prevention, the health risks of underage drinking, public speaking, how to create public service announcements and leadership development in a collection of valuable lifelong skills.
Monterey County Friday Night Live members have joined young people in 45 chapters across California in this collaborative effort to reduce alcohol access for minors and mitigate the damages caused to communities by underage drinking.
“Friday Night Live has made me feel like an engaged leader in my community,” said Alexandra, member of the FNL Prevention Youth Council (PYC) Chapter. Veronica, also of PYC, added, “To me, Friday Night Live means family, and it has helped me be closer to my community.”
Fellow PYC Chapter member Gabriel said, “Friday Night Live to me is my safe place, where no thought or word is denied, truly a familial organization.”
Funding for this program was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. For more information, visit fridaynightlive.org.