Teen Spirit is Alive in Rhode Island

As MADD celebrates our 35 anniversary, MADD Rhode Island’s Youth Leadership Training, also known as Teen Spirit, is celebrating its 25th anniversary. And last week, I had the honor of speaking at the closing session of their four-day event for more than 200 high school students who were selected as leaders in their communities from all across the Ocean State.

The event was featured sessions on alcohol and drugs, safe driving, seat belts, public speaking, prevention, creating DUI public service announcements and personal commitments. They had some fun too… an ice cream social, a dance party, even creating chants and songs. (And don’t think that the staff didn’t join in.)

One parent with whom I spoke afterward told me that she was confident her daughter would attend next year.  She said her daughter was a little shy in the beginning, but when she only called once to say hello, she knew she was having fun, learning, and meeting new lifelong friends.

It was a day I will remember for quite some time….the faces, the smiles, the energy, the enthusiasm and the hugs.

The Rhode Island Teen Spirit 2015 showed me that the leaders of tomorrow are here today… and Rhode Island will have a safer future because of them.

New Report Shows Steady Decline in Underage Drinking

A new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows a significant decline in the level of underage alcohol consumption, as well as a drop in underage binge drinking.

The survey, which examined past month underage alcohol consumption over the years 2002 to 2013, found underage drinking among all U.S. residents from age 12 through 20 dropped by 21%. And underage binge drinking decreased by even more.

Despite this reduction, however, alcohol is still the drug of choice for teens. More people aged 12 to 20 currently use alcohol (22.7%) than use tobacco (16.9%) or illicit drugs (13.6%).

This once again supports the importance of parents talking to their kids about alcohol, early and often. Parental influence is the most important factor in helping keep kids safe, and MADD’s Power of Parents® program focuses on educating parents and caregivers about the dangers of underage drinking, and provides them the tools they need to talk with their kids about alcohol. Visit to download our Parent Handbook and get tips and tools to help you have this lifesaving conversation about alcohol with your kids.

The study also reinforces that despite what teens may think, when it comes to drinking, not everybody is doing it.  In fact, more than two out of three teens DON’T drink alcohol.

This is an especially important message this time of year. With more free time and potentially less supervision during summer vacation, kids may find themselves in situations that involve alcohol. It is important for teens to know that drinking is dangerous, illegal and not necessary to fit in. Our teen booklet, the 411 on Teen Drinking, contains useful information to help teens resist peer pressure, influence other teens to not drink before age 21 and never get in the car with someone who’s been drinking. Click here to download this free booklet for teens.

The report, Underage Drinking Declined Between 2002 and 2013 is based on SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health report, an annual national survey of 67,500 Americans aged 12 and older.  For a copy of the full report go to:

The Power to Prevent Underage Drinking

Today’s breakfast event at our National Conference was all about how underage drinking prevention plays a critical role in creating a future of No More Victims™. Families here at our National Conference, and those across the country, are why we work so hard to prevent underage drinking. As well as for all of the teens killed because of underage drinking due to heartbreaking tragedies like crashes, alcohol poisoning, fires, falls, drownings and sexual assaults.

Dr. Robert Turrisi, with Pennsylvania State University, joined us to provide a look at some of the latest research. Dr. Turrisi is a leading researcher on underage drinking, and his breakthrough and lifesaving work is the foundation on which we developed the Power of Parents® program.

A panel of MADD staff and volunteers also took the stage to provide real life examples of MADD’s underage drinking prevention efforts at work in communities across the country. The panel was led by MADD National Board Member Brad Bulla, who is a frequent speaker on victim impact panels and a force for stronger drunk driving laws in his home state of Tennessee. Brad’s son Jed was killed by a drunk driver on August 3, 2005.

Panelists include:

  • MADD Tennessee Program Manager Phaedra Marriott-Olsen. Phaedra has been with MADD since 1996, shortly after a drunk driving crash caused her multiple, life-altering injuries. Phaedra persevered, though, and began volunteering for MADD before joining the MADD Missouri staff and then transferring to MADD Tennessee. She has led the charge to implement Power of Parents and Power of You(th) in her community.
  • Alex Otte, a member of MADD’s National Teen Influencer Group. Alex is from Kentucky, and just graduated from high school. She has participated in state legislative efforts with MADD for stronger ignition interlock laws, and regularly uses the Power of You(th) to make an impact in her community.
  • Peter McShane, a MADD volunteer from Connecticut and community partner who was instrumental in getting the “Start Making a Right Turn™” or SMART program off the ground, which helps youth offenders and their parents make a turn in the right direction, in order to protect their – as well as others’ – futures. Peter has been involved with MADD since 1988 and is a State’s Attorney in Connecticut.
  • MADD Volunteer and former MADD National Board Member Kathryn Stewart. Kathryn is a leading voice for MADD’s Power of Community program. She has worked with MADD since 1990, providing input based on her scientific work in the impaired driving and underage drinking fields. Kathryn currently serves as the Director of Scientific Dissemination for the Prevention Research Center, part of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation.

Underage drinking prevention may be the last prong listed in MADD’s mission, but it is by no means the least. It takes time and patience. But we are confident that MADD can and will empower school-aged youth today—called generation Z—to make smart, healthy choices about alcohol before they turn 21.

That means they will be less likely to be drinking drivers as adults… That means we’re preventing the next generation of offenders and future victims. 


Click here to learn more about our underage drinking prevention programs, and get our handbooks for parents and teens.

Grads: #ProtectUrSelfie

It’s officially graduation season. But before you take off the cap and gown and head to out with friends to celebrate, take a moment to think about your future. As a teen, you have so much to look forward to – college, pursuing a career, having a family. And the choices you make today will impact your entire life.

Teen drinking can have very bad consequences, and not everyone is doing it. In fact, less than 30 percent of teens have had a drink in the past month. And only 20 percent of teens binge drink. That means that the majority don’t.

You have the power to #ProtectUrSelfie by pledging not to drink alcohol before age 21. Join the Power of (You)th® and take the #ProtectUrSelfie pledge in your cap and gown with the caption:

I pledge to not drink alcohol before 21 or use other drugs b/c my future is worth it! #protecturselfie

Congratulations, graduates! The future is in your hands.

Get MADD's research-based teen booklet to learn how you have the power to stop underage drinking.  

PowerTalk 21 Across the Country

On Monday, April 20th, MADD San Diego partnered with North Coastal Prevention Coalition and Boomers in Vista, CA for a 420 Remix and PowerTalk 21 event to celebrate living drug free and sober. The park was opened to surrounding middle and high school students with a parent chaperone for a free day at the park. At the event, MADD hosted Power of Parents workshops in both Spanish and English, as well as provided a booth with educational and awareness materials. A special thanks to Nationwide Insurance rep Susan J McArthur who joined program specialist Alicia Espinoza at the event. 

Community leaders gathered in the Rio Grande Valley to urge parents to download the Power of Parents handbook in advance of PowerTalk 21 day, April 21st, the national day for parents to talk with their kids about alcohol.  MADD South Texas Program Specialist Rudy Rodriguez was joined at the event by Melissa Alviar of Uniting Neighbors in Drug Abuse Defense (UNIDAD); Olivia Benford, parental engagement director for the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District (PSJA ISD); Officer Irving Segura of the Pharr Police Department; and Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) Octavio Saenz. Read more on the MADD Texas blog.

North Carolina

MADD North Carolina joined Holly Springs High School’s PTSA, Holly Springs and Fuquay-Varina Police Departments, NC State Highway Patrol, and the Forensics Tests of Alcohol Branch to huge safety event focusing on underage drinking prevention and teen driving safety. The event reached over 800 students and kept participants engaged with a number of stations including a Power of You(th) exhibit, safe driving simulators, BATmobile tours and texting & driving golf kart experiences. Students also signed MADD’s Power of You(th) prom pledge. Students that completed these stations received a bag of goodies to further encourage them to make good decisions during their prom weekend and beyond.


The highly anticipated second annual Drive the Lane Celebrity Basketball Game organized by Mothers Against Drunk Driving of Southwest Florida was held on April 18th. The basketball game celebrated PowerTalk 21 and Power of Parents, MADD’s national program to equip parents and youth with the resources to start talking about underage drinking. The event kicked off with an autograph session and activities to start talking about the complex issue of underage drinking.  A red carpet step and repeat encouraged fans to take selfies in support of MADD’s #ProtectUrSelfie campaign.  A graffiti wall and chalk art installation gave fans a creative outlet to share their commitment to not drink before 21.  And, volunteers were on hand to distribute Power of Parents handbooks and materials as well as Power of You(th) booklets and wristbands. Read more on the Southwest Florida blog.

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