“Nothing is more heartbreaking than losing a child especially from alcohol or a drug overdose,” Deal said. “We do not want them to turn to alcohol or drugs to solve their problems, but to find someone to talk with – a counselor or parent.”
She said she looks at drinking alcohol from a different perspective since she and her husband do not partake, but want those who do drink to respect the responsibility that comes with it.
Deal introduced a proclamation from Gov. Nathan Deal, who declared August as Alcohol Awareness Month, to encourage more high school students not to drink. In the proclamation Deal read to the room, she said 3.6 percent of children in the sixth-grade are developing a dependence for alcohol and by the 12th grade dependence grows to 29 percent.
“Georgia’s children are our most precious resource and most cherished gift,” Deal said. “It is imperative that they remain healthy, productive and safe so that they may live fulfilling lives.”
After Deal spoke and presented the proclamation to the school’s Principal Tasharah Wilson and interim DeKalb Superintendent Michael Thurmond, Director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Harris Blackwood talked about the consequences of underage drinking.
Blackwood praised DeKalb as the only county to have Students Against Destructive Decisions chapters at every high school. He held up to the room an orange prison jump suit as a warning that a 17-year-old student charged with a DUI will be tried as an adult.
“I don’t think even if you are an Auburn, Clemson or Florida fan you want to be caught in this suit,” Blackwood said. “Having a DUI on your record can prevent you from having the job you want. It does not matter if you went to one of the best colleges, if an employer has two candidates – one without a DUI and the other with a DUI, the one without will receive the job.”
The state is also working on launching a positive campaign called REEL Change to remind students that only a small number of them choose to drink underage and to give them a positive message of the importance of saying no.
In this campaign, students will compete by filming brief clips about choosing not to drink. The contest will officially start in October.
Information: To learn more about REEL Change, visit www.reelchangega.com.