Mission Bay High students use ‘sticker shock’ to discourage underage drinking
If you purchased a pizza from Woodstock’s Pizza in Pacific Beach recently and noticed a sticker on the box discouraging underage drinking, that was due to students at Mission Bay High School.
The campus’ Youth Advocates spent nearly two hours on Dec. 17 applying 200 stickers they created to the restaurant’s pizza boxes. The “sticker shock” campaign was their latest effort to discourage underage drinking during the holidays, a time when kids are around more party environments and exposed to potentially harmful substances.
The Youth Advocates said their aim is to encourage healthy living habits in kids and young adults. Other topics they have tackled include vaping by teens, mental health issues and substance abuse.
Club President Colette Berry, a Mission Bay High School senior, said advocating for her peers to make good decisions is especially crucial at their age.
“A high school setting is known for a lot of risky and unsafe behaviors,” Berry said. “We hope to curb that by providing accurate statistics and working alongside trustworthy government organizations, such as SAY San Diego, to encourage people to take charge of their health.”
The club, formed nearly three years ago at Mission Bay High, is mentored by members of SAY San Diego, a nonprofit organization that aims to help family and community well-being. One of its avenues of promoting this well-being is through the advocacy for prevention of substance abuse.
Lizbeth Roman, a SAY mentor who helps advise the Youth Advocates, said she draws from her education in public health while in college.
“These kids are at an age where they’re exploring what they like and don’t like, and they may try a substance as part of that exploration,” Roman said. “The information the Advocates put out there, it may help kids make healthy choices, especially as their brains are still developing.”
The sticker shock campaign was started by Mothers Against Drunk Driving several years ago, intended to place stickers on bottles of alcohol to raise awareness about drunk driving. Kaley Kantor, program specialist at MADD San Diego, helped the Youth Advocates put together the event.
“A portion of my job is working with youth, getting them excited about the mission of MADD,” Kantor said. “DUI driving impacts so many people, and odds are that two out of three people will be impacted by it in their lifetime. It’s not hard to find someone who is impacted. These kinds of campaigns are a great way for Youth Advocates to wield their creativity while also spreading a really positive message.”
Through traffic safety grants, which funds its educational outreach, MADD is able to engage with many Youth Advocacy groups. The one in Pacific Beach was Kantor’s fourth sticker shock campaign with SAYS San Diego.
“The whole goal is to limit access to youth, and a campaign like this might discourage adults from purchasing alcohol for someone who is underage,” Kantor said.
Roman said that of the liquor stores the club contacted, none were willing to collaborate with the Mission Bay Youth Advocates.
“We ended up reaching out to Woodstock’s Pizza, not just because they serve beer, but they serve pizza to a lot of families with teenagers in the area,” Roman explained.
Kantor said she anticipated a higher impact with the campaign run by the Mission Bay Youth Advocates, given the demographic of the restaurant’s clientele.
The intended audience is not just young people who may be considering drinking underage, but also toward people of age that were planning to provide them with alcohol.
According to the Social Host Accountability Ordinance, hosts of a gathering where underage drinking is allowed to occur are held accountable and subject to a fine. During a press conference the club held in conjunction with the sticker shock event, Berry said the holidays are an especially crucial time to make good decisions when it comes to substances and party environments.
“We created stickers that push the message to not provide alcohol to minors, to support the social host accountability law,” Berry explained. “During the holidays, lots of people are out of school or not working and parties are being thrown. Adults can take charge and support underage people’s health and well-being by not providing them with alcohol.”
Echoing Berry’s message, club Vice President Maya Satterberg said that tackling underage drinking abuse requires the participation of all persons involved.
“The most common location for underage drinking to take place is at someone else’s home,” Satterberg said. “That’s why San Diego has this social host ordinance in place. It’s easy to avoid this fine by controlling access to alcohol at your parties. It’s also important for minors to pay attention to their friends and help them make good decisions.”
Kantor, citing data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, claimed that while total miles travelled fell by 13 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic, fatal crashes related to alcohol still increased by 9 percent.
“These campaigns are entirely youth-led and organized and are a fun and effective way to reach the intended audiences,” Kantor said.
Satterberg said she hoped the stickers spark conversations about responsible partying.
“I think this is a good opportunity to get people interested and learn more,” she explained. “As long as it starts conversations for people who haven’t considered it before, I think that’s a victory.”
“We hope that the brightly colored designs that the students came up with will communicate the message to anyone who sees them,” Roman said.
Apart from taking a stand against substance abuse, the Youth Advocates previously discussed issues about mental health in the queer community and how substance abuse disproportionately impacts communities of color.
“We do presentations on different substances. We’ve worked with groups like Friday Night Live (and) different government agencies,” Satterberg said. “Everything we do ties back to each other. It’s important to not just focus on these issues in solitude but as a small part of a greater whole. Intersectionality is definitely the center of a lot of our work.”
Berry and Satterberg said that leading by example helps to encourage activism in their peers.
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“We want to make these issues accessible to people our own age, even though they may not be necessarily included when government officials use all this big, fancy lingo that is made to deliberately exclude certain populations,” Berry said. “We want to show that being politically active, working to make a positive change in the community is not as difficult as it may seem.”
Two years ago, the Mission Bay Youth Advocates presented in front of lawmakers to encourage legislation that restricted the sale of vapes within two miles of school zones. At the local level, they’ve helped with Red Ribbon Week and D.A.R.E. campaigns at Mission Bay High School.
“It’s important to always be engaging with people about these topics, to keep them in the back of their minds so they know how to react to situations when they come up in their lives,” Satterberg said.
After applying the stickers to the pizza boxes, Berry said the club hopes to design another sticker to distribute at DUI checkpoints alongside San Diego police to thank people for not driving while under the influence and spread more awareness of underage substance abuse.