Town honors Riverhead Youth Coalition’s work to deter underage drinking

Riverhead Youth Coalition

The Riverhead Town Board honored a group of local teenagers with a proclamation Wednesday after they gave a presentation about underage drinking.

Members of the Riverhead Youth Coalition administered a student survey last year and found six out of 10 Riverhead High School seniors reported drinking alcohol within the past 30 days.

And one of every four seniors reported binge drinking within the past two weeks, according to the report.

Most seniors said they had their first alcoholic beverage at age 13, and 27 percent of seniors surveyed said they’d been in a car whose driver had been drinking.

In addition to seniors, students in grades 6, 8 and 10 were also surveyed.

The Riverhead Youth Coalition is an after-school prevention program coordinated by Riverhead Community Awareness Program, a nonprofit organization that has been teaching alcohol and drug resistance programs in the Riverhead schools since 1982.

“The mission of the Riverhead Youth Coalition is to prevent youth alcohol and drug use in our town,” said student Maxmillian Solarz. “We chose this topic because Riverhead youth have easy access to alcohol, and underage drinking in our community is higher than the national average.”

Membership is open to Riverhead students in grades 7-12. The group gives presentations and runs educational programs and training sessions designed to get the message across about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

“When kids drink, they drink to get drunk,” was one of the messages in the presentation.

Alcohol use can lead to poor academic performance, sexual assaults, car accidents, addiction and death, group members said.

Parents who allow underage drinking to take place in their homes is another concern the group is tackling. They also produced a public service announcement for radio to raise awareness about the issue.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said town police check social media sites, such as Facebook, to catch violators. 

“If we find out you’re serving alcohol to underage kids at your house, you can expect a visit [from] Riverhead police,” he said.

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Photo: Riverhead Youth Coalition members received a town proclamation Wednesday. (Credit: Tim Gannon)