On the evening of Thursday, Dec. 20, a group of students from Cedar Ridge High School representing ADAPT – Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Team - came together for a Holiday Blitz event in Mebane.
CRHS students Meredith Braddy, Luis Ulloa, Sophia Dingler, staff member Brittany Anderson, and Gayane Chambless, Program Director of the Orange Partnership for Alcohol and Drug Free Youth, met at Mebane’s Foust Corner Market, located along U.S. Highway 70 at 509 E. Center St.
“They’ve been doing a lot of stores in Hillsborough. This is the second time this group has come to Mebane,” Chambless said in a recent interview.
At the Mebane stores, which included stops at the Poppe Shoppe at 6300 U.S. 70 and Petro Mebane at 500 Buckhorn Rd., the students and staff conducted audits of the store’s efforts to visibly promote the concept that you have to be 21 years old to purchase alcohol.
According to Chambless and the students, a merchant audit looks at how well a store does to reduce the likelihood of an underage youth might go into a store to purchase alcohol. It assesses how the store uses signage and promotion, along with warning signs that they check ID. It also addresses where alcoholic beverages are placed, which could lead to “grab and goes” and theft.
“The audits, what we do is look at the look at the placement of the alcohol products, and advertisements for alcohol, and warnings that the store IDs. And that underage products, if they’re sold, there’s consequences that come with that,” added CRHS student Meredith Braddy. “We’ve looked at all the placement, and we’re going through and filling out a form, and we’ll tell the store what they’re doing well, and some things they could work on in the future.”
“Sometimes we don’t get the friendliest faces, because they think we’re part of the law enforcement. Which we’re not,” Braddy added. “We’re part of our own coalition. And we just come to give feedback to the stores themselves, so they don’t have any issues when law enforcement does come.”
“The goal is to help contribute to the stop of underage selling of alcohol, and products of that sort,” added Luis Ulloa.
One concern in recent years is the selling of alcohol not necessarily to underage residents, but sales to folks who are 21 or older, and then provide the alcohol to their younger peers or siblings.
It’s especially a concern during the Holiday season - not only because of the propensity to party around Christmas and New Year’s Day. But also the stress that high school students have with exams around the corner after the first of the year.
“Especially a lot of seniors and juniors nowadays stress about finals, and stress about school in general. They just want to hang out with their friends. Sometimes drinking just helps them,” said student Sophia Dingler.
“What we’re hearing is that while the stores are much better about checking ID - which is what we want to see - it’s the older siblings, or older friends, or other family members, who might (be purchasing the alcohol),” added Chambless. “The youth, what they have brought to our attention is messaging to those that if they are purchasing alcohol for underage people, there could one be unintended consequences. And two, there could be financial repercussions, even jail time, legal repercussions - especially anything that requires a resource investigation. They definitely want to get that message out to the older siblings and friends who might be, ‘Oh, I did it when I was young. Go ahead and try it.’”
Along with the audits of the stores, the students also placed stickers on some of the alcohol boxes reminding residents not to purchase for underage youth. The group calls it “Sticker Shock.”
“A sticker shock - on the front row of the products, we put a warning sticker that warns against buying products for underage people,” Braddy said.
The group indicated that Foust Corner Market and other local stores are worthy of praise for their efforts storewide to discourage underage alcohol purchases.
“I would say they (Foust Corner Market) have done really well. They have plenty of warning signs. And the placements are out of sight for younger people. It’s separate,” Braddy said.
ADAPT has two teams in Orange County Schools - one at Cedar Ridge High School and one at Orange High School.
“These students are selected because of their interest and dedication in healthy lifestyles, are trained to understand how alcohol and marijuana affects a person’s developing brain, as well as impacts of use on the body and other consequences,” Chambless explained. “They have the youthful perspective that we often don’t think about. Because we have this cross-over between Alamance County Schools and Orange County Schools, this (Mebane) is a great location.”
In addition to their activities monitoring local stores and their 21-and-over policies, ADAPT members become peer educators, especially working with middle school students.
“They have been doing presentations to 8th grade (rising 9th grade students) every year for the past three years, and are now going to every middle school in Orange County as well as going to a charter school,” Chambless said.
In addition to its presentations, ADAPT also works, as they did in their tour of the Mebane convenience stores, with merchants to help them understand the importance of checking ID when a young appearing person purchases alcohol.
“This event focuses on the message the youth have raised about older friends, siblings or other family members purchasing alcohol for those who are underage,” Chambless said. “They want folks to be aware of the mixed messages they are sending when doing so, and that if they are found to be providing alcohol there could be consequences for that person as well. Many are simply not aware.”
The Orange Partnership is a collaboration between community members and various agencies, schools and organizations in Hillsborough and rural Orange County concerned about the issue of underage drinking and drug use. Using an environmental perspective, the organization addresses youth access to alcohol, policy enforcement, youth empowerment and social norms.
“The Orange Partnership’s vision is a community where young people live safe, healthy and productive lives free from alcohol and drugs,” Chambless said. “We do this through collaboration, education, advocacy and empowering youth.” Dog