In-Depth: Drinking at GHHS

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Based on a nationwide survey of over 16,000 seniors collected between 2005 and 2011, results also showed several trends in specific demographics. Students of white ethnicity had significantly high levels of extreme binge drinking; teens in the Midwest were more likely to engage in extreme binge drinking than other regions.
The results of this study prompted the editorial board to examine the recreational drinking habits of students at Grand Haven High School. 362 students completed a drinking survey. Editor’s note: The names of some students have been changed to protect the identity of those who admitted to drinking.

 

Part of the experience

For the 37 percent of students who identify themselves as regular drinkers, alcohol is the gateway to a good time. Stress relief. Socializing with friends. Parties. The list of reasons runs on.
“It’s fun,” Bradley, a senior said. “It just kind of calms you down after a stressful week or something like that.”
Some students feel that the benefits of drinking outweigh the legal consequences that come with getting caught.
“I love it,” senior Jeremy said. “I don’t think there is a problem with it because in places like Europe the drinking age is 18 and they don’t abuse the use of alcohol. I think we should bring [the drinking age] down. It doesn’t really harm anyone, it’s just kids having fun.”
Many students believe that drinking in itself is not the issue, but rather the decisions made by individuals under the influence.
“It’s really up to you, and if you get caught it’s your own fault,” said Jane, a junior who admits to drinking about every other weekend. “I really don’t care it’s up to the person who does it.”
Bradley agrees.
“To an extent I feel like it’s not that bad if you do it in the right manner and if you don’t get too drunk,” Bradley said. “And if you’re not doing bad things or harmful things when you’re drinking like destroying property and stuff like that then it’s not that bad.”
Along with socializing with friends, Jeremy believes that alcohol can enhance other experiences– like football games and dances.
“It makes the school events more fun,” Jeremy said. “And I guess at football games it gets me more pumped up, I can cheer better.”

 

Opting out

Not all students participate in these activities. While many have friends who drink, 61% of students surveyed say they don’t.
“I have a good relationship with my parents and I don’t want to ruin it by getting in trouble,” junior Amy Kober said. “I’m a mentor to a lot of kids and I don’t want to mess up their parents trust in me and I don’t want to mess up anyone’s opinions of me and make it worse.”
Although she chooses not to drink, Kober doesn’t discriminate against those who do. She does her best to be understanding while keeping an eye on her friends.
I just kind of take the role of mom and I just take care of them all,” Kober said. “At first it was hard, but I’ve gotten used to it. I drive them around and I make sure they don’t throw up and I make sure they don’t smell bad.”
While some are okay with being around their friends drinking, others want nothing to do with the party scene.
“Sometimes I feel like I get left out from hanging out with my friends,” senior Kyra Lansky said. “If a lot of the times [we] are busy and we have one free weekend and that is what’s happening I’m like ‘well I’m not going.’”
It’s not that Lansky just doesn’t like alcohol, she doesn’t like the way her friends may act around it.
“I just feel uncomfortable when I’m around it,” Lansky said. “I’d be the only one not doing it and everyone would just be in an element that I’d never seen them before and I don’t think I would be scornful but it would kind of freak me out. I think I would just choose to keep myself out of it, that way I don’t have any part in it. I don’t want to be a part of that in any respect.”
While students who choose not to drink can accept drinking at parties or with friends as a personal choice, their opinion about drinking at school events is a different story.
“It’s embarrassing for them more than anything,” senior Perry Benson said. “If they have to drink to have fun at a football game they shouldn’t be there.”
Lansky believes that coming to school events under the influence has no positive outcome.
“It makes you look trashy,” Lansky said. “Because no matter what you think, everyone can tell.”
Responsibilities
What Lansky says isn’t far from the truth. The school’s on-site officer Derek Gerencer recognizes that students arriving intoxicated to school sponsored events is an issue and says he will be cracking down on enforcement. But Gerencer is only one person and cannot resolve this issue on his own.
“I’m not going to go through [the student section] and dig to find who is drinking,” Gerencer said. “But if you act like an idiot and make a fool of yourself, then I am going to find you and you will get an MIP.”
While some students may find Gerencer’s approach harsh, he acts with their best interest in mind. His priority is the safety and well-being of students and that means making decisions that aren’t always appreciated.
“I get accused of ruining kids’ lives, but that’s not what I’m doing.”

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In-Depth: Drinking at GHHS