by Pilar Pedraza
KWCH 12 Eyewitness News
3:27 PM CST, January 15, 2013
Dozens of teenagers, parents and community members attended a town hall meeting on underage drinking Tuesday night. But this anti-drinking campaign was different from others you may have seen.
It was the presence of the teens themselves. They didn't come as passive recipients of a message. They were the organizers of the message and they made their voices heard.
"I am aware that the problem is wide spread, especially in my community," said Akim Richards, a Sophomore from Maize High School and member of the Wichita Mayor's Youth council. "And the alcohol, it's not very hard to obtain, it's not very hard to get your hands on."
Which is why Richards and Lauren Appenfeller helped organize the town hall on underage drinking, to spread the message. It's part of their public service as members of the Mayor's Youth Council.
The event included the expected, things like statistics, personal stories of loss due to underage drinking and warnings about the effects of alcohol on the decision making process.
"Seventy-five percent of underage drinking occurs outside of the home," Wichita Councilwoman Lavonta Williams told those present.
"She was on her way home and she was hit by an individual who was 20 years of age and killed her," Officer Michael Lloyd of the Wichita Police Department added, sharing how a fellow officer was killed by a drunk driver.
He went on to discuss how drinking has become more dangerous than it used to be. "Somebody's more likely to pull out a weapon and use it, versus going outside and throwing a few punches with their friend, coming back in and having a beer."
There was also a unique flavor to the meeting.
"I was asked to be on the panel because I offer a different perspective," said Appenfeller.
And that perspective was?
"I think be more positive," she said. Adding, as an example, statistics from a study done in the Wichita area on teens and drinking over the last several years.
"Eighty-eight percent of students in our area, Wichita, have actually not had any sort of alcoholic beverage," she said. "It makes it a lot easier decline alcohol if you know that a majority of kids aren't doing it."
Those present agreed one of the most powerful tools in preventing underage drinking were teens themselves.
"Give the youth more opportunity to make a difference," said one audience member.
The members of the Mayor's Youth Council who organized Tuesday's town hall meeting hope the event helps both teens and adults find more effective ways to prevent underage drinking before it becomes a problem.
They invited Mayor Carl Brewer, Vice Mayor Janet Miller and council member Lavonta Williams, as well as representatives of the Wichita Police Department and the Wichita School District to participate in the panel discussion and question and answer session.
The Mayor's Youth Council is a group of more than 30 Wichita high schoolers who are interested in local government.
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