Happy 2020 Everyone!
It takes me until February 1st to get into the swing of things, and up until then, I wish everyone a very happy new year. I love the new year for a multitude of reasons, but mostly because it offers the opportunity for new beginnings, or at the very least reaffirmations of purpose for the new year.
As in 2019, the Strengthening Chicago’s Youth project Preventing Alcohol Abuse in Chicago Teens (PAACT) is in full effect, and we are continuing with our “I Got This!” communication campaign. The new year offers a perfect opportunity to reaffirm our mission for the I Got This! Campaign, and to continue in building new friendships, and partnerships, and bridges to Chicago youth in hopes that they will continue making great decisions as far as substance use goes.
PAACT is a multi-agency coalition of 15 community-based nonprofits and government agencies convened by Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago to address the prevention of alcohol use among 8th-12th graders in the city of Chicago.
Now, your natural reaction to that paragraph should be, so what???
Well, PAACT brings organizations who may not normally work together, together, to figure out how they can better work to reach more youth across the city. That’s what we call “capacity-building.” From the Asian Health Coalition and Chicago Department of Public Health, to receiving support from the Illinois National Guard Counterdrug Taskforce, we bring a wide variety of parties together to network, and work together.
PAACT’s mission is to reduce underage drinking and promote health and wellness by engaging Chicago’s youth, their parents and guardians, and the community at large in strategies that work. PAACT’s vision is a healthy Chicago where every young person is empowered and alcohol-free.
Now, as we all know, Chicago is a large place, and while we do a lot of amazing work, PAACT’s capacity and reach are finite. So, over the past two years, we’ve focused on specific neighborhoods of the city. This academic year, our neighborhood focus has been in Austin, Belmont-Cragin, Englewood, Back of the Yards, West Englewood, South Chicago, and West Lawn.
Our outreach team consists of two PAACT team members, Linda Gordon and Emily Jade Aguilar. So far, both have been having an amazing time getting out into the communities and meeting people, and making connections, mainly with schools. As they’ve both recounted, it has been amazing for counselors and principals to greet them with open arms, and welcome them into the school community to raise pertinent conversations about youth alcohol usage, which can lead to conversations on a variety of related topics as well.
With so many discussion swirling about so many different topics, particularly marijuana and vaping products, some people may ask why we chose to shine a light on adolescent alcohol usage.
Well, the fact of the matter is that “alcohol is still the most commonly used substance of abuse among young people in America.” (Source)
In 2017, more than 33 perfect of 12th-graders, 19.7 percent of 10th-graders and 8 percent of eighth-graders had used alcohol in the previous month, according to a study done at the University of Michigan. Overall, about 20 percent of these teens had used alcohol in the previous 30 days. (Source)
Now, as you look at those numbers, you’ll notice that they aren’t a majority of the teens in the study. The Illinois Youth Survey tells us the same thing; A majority of Chicago teens are not drinking.
That’s why we view “I Got This!” as a celebration of Chicago youth making the best possible decisions for them. We’re here to support them in their continued vigilance. Part of that is giving them the best tools possible to stay informed and aware, and best practices when they do encounter peer pressure to drink or even try other substances. Additionally, a big part of adolescent substance youth abstinence is having supportive adults around them to help them continue making those decisions. We know that positive relationships, as well as positive role models, are key to youth making good decisions and living a healthy lifestyle.
This is also why we know that adults having permissive attitudes toward underage drinking is actually a very harmful strategy. Experts say that rather than being ineffective to reducing harm to youth, it’s actually helping to fuel an epidemic of teenage binge drinking.
It was also recently reported that money spent on beer ads and advertising strategies has been linked to increases in underage drinking.
This is why it’s important for parents/guardians/adults to have ongoing conversations with youth about substance use, and the potential harmful side effects. “I Got This!” is not only for the youth, but for the parents too. If you go to our website, we actually have tips on engaging the youth around you in productive, trust-building discussions. You shouldn’t aim for one big discussion, but a string of discussions over time, so that it is a conversation and topic that both adult and adolescent are comfortable having.
We are looking forward to an amazing year of spreading the good word about “I Got This!” Would you like to learn more or get involved?” Well, here are a few avenues for you:
- Visit The I Got This! website and get stocked up on all your tips and statistics. We’ve got info for both youth and parents, so maybe you all could sit down together and start the conversation there.
- Follow I Got This! on social media! We can be found at Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. We’d love to hear from you all. We’re not hear simply to be a billboard, we want to engage in meaningful conversation about these topics.
- Share I Got This! content! Help us spread the word!!!
- Take the I Got This Pledge! Snap a selfie/group picture/ or use your favorite picture and share it to your social networks with the hashtag #IGotThisChicago. Let us know that you hear us! We will give you a shout out on our channels.
- Reach out to us! We have posters, flyers, and bookmarks. Maybe you want an I Got This! poster in your school, or your office? Maybe you want an I Got This! photo to use as your computer wallpaper? Reach out to us, and we’ll be happy to get some stuff to you. Also, we work very closely with our colleagues here in Lurie Children’s, so if you need us to make connections or introductions with the Substance Use and Prevention Program (SUPP) here, we’d be happy to do so!
It’s going to be a great 2020! Be positive, be healthy, and make the best decisions for you! We’re here to support you however we can!
You got this!