By Casey Mattis
It’s that time of year again, where the weather is changing, leaves are falling, and soon we will all be pulling out our scarves and boots. For high school students, it’s also time for some of the year’s most exciting activities with football games, festivals and fall’s most treasured event, Homecoming!
All of this can be very fun, but it is more than important to stay above the influence when bombarded with so many activities. If we fail to make the right decisions, it can be very dangerous.
Being a teenager is a very exciting time, and many of us are just getting our driver’s license or even our first car. With this new responsibility, it is important that every teenager knows that drinking and driving are two things that do not go together. Crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers, age 15-24, were the highest in Fairfax County last year in October, the month of many high school Homecomings as well as Halloween.
I think the last thing students want to be told is what to do all the time, because we have heard it all before. But it’s an important point for students to know that they will have more fun enjoying these festivities alcohol- and drug-free. A night at Homecoming can turn from good to bad in a blink of an eye when mixed with the abuse of drugs and alcohol.
The easiest way to get the most fun out of Homecoming night is to steer clear of anyone who might pressure you. Remember if a person doesn’t respect your reason for not doing something, he or she is not looking out for your best interest and is most likely not someone you should associate yourself with.
With school dances such as Homecoming, there will always be after parties. The same rules apply -- if you feel as if you’re not in a good situation, steer clear! Remember, too, that you can also call or text your parents for help if you or your friends don’t have a safe ride or feel you are in danger. Don’t ever get in a car with someone you know has been drinking or using any illegal or new synthetic drug.
Always be safe and take extra precaution when driving late at night. Remember to always wear a seatbelt, keep curfew, and obey traffic laws (including the number of passengers in a car). As young drivers who only have recently earned our licenses, many teenagers still are not the best or most experienced drivers, so be extremely careful about friends you choose to ride in a car with.
The most important thing about Homecoming is just to have an amazing, safe time. Being in high school, you only get four Homecomings, so enjoy them up while you can. But above all, just make appropriate decisions because this is such a crucial time period in a student’s life with so much to look forward to in the years ahead. Live it up and make good choices! You can do it; most of us do.
The Unified Prevention Coalition of Fairfax County is a nonprofit organization with more than 50 community partners working together to keep youth and young adults safe and drug-free. Visit www.unifiedpreventioncoalition.org and www.facebook.com/unifiedpreventioncoalition. Follow the group on Twitter at www.twitter.com/keepyouthsafe.