Thursday, May 12, 2011

Project AWARE Summer Film Institute

We just received word of this amazing opportunity from our friends at Project AWARE and Carl Lakari. Know any aspiring young filmmakers? Please pass this along!
By now you may have heard about our 4th annual Summer Film Institute to be held in August. I am writing today to ask you to help Project AWARE by getting the word out. In particular we have found that getting the info out to parents can help youth get involved in this program.

We find the best way to get kids involved is word of mouth and direct connection. It is hard to explain in flyers and e-mails this amazing opportunity.

It has been life-changing for many attendees (please note there are active links below that you can use for more information) :

  • Two (13 and 14 years old) attendees created a PSA on parenting that ultimately served as the basis for Project AWARE’s 3rd movie Influenced. This award-winning movie was created at the 2009 institute and is available on DVD;
  • Ten Sanford kids who attended the Institute went back to school, got involved in their film club, and created the award-winning movie April’s Heart;
  • A young women returned to her school and created a PSA with her new skills; it received rave reviews and the commercial was picked up, re-produced professionally and aired nationally;
  • A PSA created on teen pregnancy has received over 130,000 views on You Tube and has sparked deep conversation about this contentious issue;
  • Recently an 8th grader used his PSA and story on bullying in his hometown; it now airs on broadcast TV in Maine and he was nominated and chosen as a top 10 finalist for a $10,000 Colin Higgins Youth Courage Award from thousands of applicants nationwide;
  • 4 young women created a powerful video about sexual assault as they processed their own childhood experiences. Sexual Assault Response Services is planning to use the PSA for education in schools;
  • Finally, a 14 year old teen was able to write, direct, and lead in her own movie about the healthy passions of youth. A Shoestring for Mackenzie is planned for a Fall 2011 release.

Attendees are using their experience at this summer day camp, located in Saco Maine, to learn new skills, build their resumes, process their own experiences, and bond with peers while making a difference. The experience is full, it is all created by youth, very high quality and about issues we hear about every day on the news.

Once there, kids are engaged and excited about this work. Help us with outreach – change a young person’s life! And also think about sponsoring youth to attend if your budget allows for it. It has been very successful (as you can see above!) in the past.

Please let me know if you are able to help. I recommend this e-mail along with the attached flyer with a few sentences of personal encouragement. List-servs, schools, parents, kids and many other venues are possible choices for networking.

Thank you in advance!
Thanks to Carl and Project AWARE for providing youth with this opportunity to be creative and make a difference! The flyer for the program is below:

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Prom and Graduation Season is fast approaching...

Work hard, play hard! School teaches us so much more than the three R's. It's also about life's balancing acts: work/play, eat/sleep, and hang on/let go are the top demands in a household with teens. Prom and graduation season certainly highlights the hang on/let go balancing act for parents of juniors and seniors.

While adulthood may seem like a stone's throw away, it's not a reality for older teens. In fact, their judgment is still under construction -- until their mid 20's. Sadly, there are far too many tragic stories of what happens when a teenager's limited judgment is further impaired by alcohol -- beyond drinking and driving, studies show links between alcohol and drownings, falls, assaults and sexual violence.

All Maine's teens are at risk for underage drinking. One of the top protective factors for reducing underage drinking is parents. Talk to your teen about the risks, let them know you do not want them to drink. Ask about their plans, and don't be afraid to ask whether there will be alcohol present -- and to
say no if there will be.

There are lots of opportunities for letting go and giving your teen freedom and responsibility. When it comes to alcohol, they just aren't ready.

21 Reasons May Tip of the Month!

Read more on this topic in the Portland Press Herald's April 21, 2011 OpEd piece.

Looking for resources? is a great place to start.

Friday, March 18, 2011

“Today Show” and WSJ discuss: Should parents teach responsible drinking?

Could there be benefits to allowing teens to drink in moderation at home? A recent segment on "The Today Show" asked this question of college students and others, mimicking a conversation common among parents.

Here at 21 Reasons, however, we see holes in "Today"'s conclusions, as well as a misrepresentation of current research: 
  • The experts on “Today” cite many European countries where drinking at meals is common as models for teaching responsible drinking at home. However, a recent article in The Wall Street Journal cites a study examining binge drinking among teens which found France, Italy, Ireland, Denmark and the U.K. to have higher rates than here in the States.
  • "Today"'s focus group of college students presented the "forbidden fruit" argument, which says that outlawing or disallowing a behavior will make it more attractive to boundary-pushing teens. However, research shows that kids are less likely to drink if they think their parents strongly disapprove or if they think they'll be caught.
  • "Today" also ignores research which tells us that teen brains are still developing -- and, in fact, they'll doing so well into the mid-20s. Drinking alcohol damages young brains, which means there is no such thing as "safe" underage drinking.
Parents should take away from this conversation the knowledge that you matter -- you, more than anyone else, can affect the choices your teen will make. For great resources on how to prevent your teen from drinking, visit

Want to watch the clip described above? Just hit play:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Afternoon Links

  • We at 21 Reasons were happy to hear about this study, which evaluated the impact "Above the Influence," a National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). A compelling quote from ONDCP's press release: "This study confirms that the National Youth Anti-Drug Media campaign is effective, relevant to youth, and a vital tool in supporting drug prevention efforts of communities across the country. With youth drug use on the rise, it is imperative that a campaign like Above the Influence – one that is effectively reaching and resonating with youth in communities – receive the funding it needs to keep our young people safe, healthy, and drug-free." We could not agree more. Follow this link to check out Above the Influence on the web.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers another great resource for resisting peer pressure: This page is full of tips for adults -- parents, teachers, coaches, and others -- who want to help kids and teens resist social pressure to use alcohol and drugs.
  • In policy news, the Drug Enforcement Agency has placed an emergency ban on so-called "synthetic marijuana." The drugs have been sold legally as herbal incense for the past few years.  However, as one quoted DEA administrator notes, "legal" does not always mean "safe". Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) writes: "Since 2009, the DEA has received an increasing number of reports from poison control centers, hospitals and law enforcement regarding these products. Emergency room physicians report that people who use synthetic marijuana experience serious side effects which include convulsions, anxiety attacks, dangerously elevated heart rates, increased blood pressure, vomiting, and disorientation." The active ingredients in these products have been listed as Schedule I substances (the most restricted category), and will be further studied. To read more, check out the DEA website.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Glee – "Blame It On The Alcohol"?

Any “Gleeks” in the audience? Fans or regular viewers of “Glee”, the popular show on FOX, know that the show doesn’t shy away from controversial subject matter.  

Last week’s episode was no exception. Underage drinking is on the rise among McKinley High students, and the Glee Club is asked to highlight the dangers of drinking by performing at a school assembly. In the week leading up the assembly, however, it’s the Glee kids who are experimenting with alcohol, at home and even in school. Characters talk about drinking as a way to have fun, let loose and be cool. 

The feedback they get from adults is mixed. Mr. Schuester, their mentor and Glee director, takes this opportunity to condemn teen drinking and, especially, drunk driving, but isn’t sure how to respond when the kids challenge his opinions. He goes out drinking “to relax and blow off steam” with other faculty members, and comes to school with a strong hangover the next morning. As for the kids, they face few serious consequences for their actions.  

What messages will kids and teens glean from this episode of “Glee”? That depends on the way adults around them react. If parents don’t speak to teens about alcohol and drugs, they will learn about it elsewhere, and what they learn may not be accurate; “Glee” is only one example, of many. As character Mercedes notes, much popular media these days glorifies alcohol, and there are very few songs out there that send the message that drinking is not okay.  By engaging kids in a conversation that encourages critical viewing and listening, we can use this as a teaching opportunity to help our kids resist these messages in the future.

To get the conversation started, Drug Free Coalition of Tippecanoe County offers a list of questions for parents whose kids watch Glee: 

  • Do you think that the episode of Glee realistically portrayed high school drinking?
  • How do you think it could have been different?
  • Do you think there was anything that the producers left out that would have made the awareness message stronger?
  • Do you agree with Coach Bieste’s statement – “We can’t stop them from drinking. It’s inevitable but we need to make sure they are educated on the dangers and hope that they are smart enough to make good decisions on their own”?
  • We've seen the Glee kids having tons of fun before this episode without the use of alcohol. What were some of those things? Did they seem to have any more or less fun with the addition of alcohol? 
For a summary of the episode and an excellent analysis of the show’s messaging, check out this blog post from the Drug Free Coalition of Tippecanoe County:  

If you’d like to watch the episode for yourself, it’s available for free at for the next few weeks. Bear in mind that you may not consider the subject matter or how it’s presented appropriate for your kid or teen.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Big Bowl Vote 2011

Super Bowl Sunday is fast approaching, and all over the country, fans are getting excited to watch the Packers and the Steelers have it out. But some viewers won’t just be watching for field goals: for many, the big-budget ads are just as exciting as the big game! “The Super Bowl is known for its commercials almost as much as it is for the game itself,” writes the Drug-Free Action Alliance of Ohio, and each year dozens of companies pay to be part of that, advertising cars, technology, services – and alcohol.

In response to this trend, Ohio’s Drug-Free Action Alliance has begun the Big Bowl Vote, a three-question survey of middle and high school students, to help communities assess which Super Bowl ads kids remember and to help parents and educators start conversations with kids about alcohol advertising. Last year, 40,000 youth in 39 states participated in the survey nationally, and found that two of the five most popular Super Bowl 2010 ads were selling beer.

Are you an educator? It's easy to bring the Big Bowl Vote to your classroom! The Big Bowl 2011 Toolkit provides materials, tips, and follow-up activities.

Are you a parent? Encourage your kid’s teachers to bring the Big Bowl Vote to their classroom! And if you and your teen watch the game together, use it as an opportunity to discuss alcohol advertising together and to help your child develop critical thinking skills about ads and alcohol. Check out the Big Bowl Toolkit to see a copy of this year’s questionnaire and the Drug-Free Action Alliance’s alcohol advertising fact sheet.

Check out the Big Bowl Vote site for more information and tools.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

“Parenting: A Community Resource”

What makes a good parent? In a short clip on CTN5’s website, several teenagers give us their perspective:
“A good parent is basically a role model.”
– Abdul Karim, Age 16
“Understanding, and just being there.” – Nyador Nguany, Age 16
“A good parent in my eyes is someone who loves, cares, gives us privileges but knows when to be disciplined. There for us when we need someone to talk to.” – Demitrius Covington, Age 16

Hosted by our very own Jo Morrissey, “Parenting: A Community Resource” offers parents tips and strategies for approaching common challenges – including connecting with kids, setting boundaries and limits, and resolving conflicts. Current episodes cover these issues and more, reporting on community based-programs which help parents develop the skills they need to succeed, and discussing familiar scenarios with local experts. CTN partnered with Boys to Men, Center for Grieving Children, Kids’ First, Youth Alternatives/Ingraham, Real Life. Real Talk., LearningWorks, and 21 Reasons to bring this resource to our community.

Watch Jo and the "Parenting" team in the most recent episode: