7th Annual Teen Summit Opens with the Consequences of Underage Drinking

July 28, 2007 — Teens attending the 7th annual Teen Summit will come face-to-face with the consequences of underage drinking Sunday when guest speaker Amina O'Flaherty tells them how a devastating accident changed her life forever.
The Summit, which began Friday, is a weekend-long interactive educational forum free of drugs, alcohol and violence hosted by the St. Croix Unity Coalition (SCUC) on the UVI campus. Attendees, ages 12 to 17, will participate in educational sessions and workshops which will give them information “to help them live healthy lifestyles, staying away from drugs, alcohol and making positive choices," according to organizers.
This year, underage drinking will be highlighted through the real-life experience of a St. Croix native who moved to Florida when she was 19 to get her GED. After a night of partying she was involved in a tragic car accident. "She is here to give her testimony," said Summit co-chair Denise Lewis. "She will let the teens know that there are consequences to their actions."
O'Flaherty, 22, was involved in a head-on collision in Daytona, Fla. three years ago. She and her friends had just come from a club where they were drinking and having fun. Her boyfriend, who was driving, — and not wearing his seatbelt — was thrown from the vehicle and died. The two other passengers in the car were seriously injured. O'Flaherty was in a coma for 17 months and endured numerous surgeries on her brain and body. Today she uses a wheel chair and has limited use of her left hand and leg. She sometimes has problems communicating.
"We made a lot of bad decisions that night," O'Flaherty said haltingly. "I want tell them that drinking and driving has consequences. I want to tell them don't do it."
According to SCUC President Annette Scott, "Past summits have shown positive results among participants, and we hope to see the same results this year."
Second-time Summit participant Jalani Riley, an Educational Complex senior, said lessons learned at the Summit can help you make healthy choices. "It's a good experience. The workshops give you awareness and education and all the kids have fun." Riley said he was able to educate a friend in the States about a drug-laced tattoo sometimes be found in clubs. "I told him, if someone tries to sell you a tattoo in the club, don't take it, it could be laced with ecstasy."
Parents seemed eager and expectant when they registered their teens Friday. Many families came with younger siblings in tow, perhaps to show by example that it takes these types of activities to live a safe and healthy lifestyle in your adolescent years.
Exposure to college campus life is part of the overall experience for the teens. "Hopefully the college environment will help promote an environment of higher learning," said program coordinator Fernando Webster Jr.
"The young children see too much violence and drugs," said Catherine James, who was registering her 13-year-old son, Shamel for his first Summit. "This will help him learn and be aware, it’s a good lesson."
James said her son was not doing much this summer and was hanging out with "some wrong guys". "I'm so glad he is here," she said. Shamel was pretty happy too. "It's going to be fun," the first-time participant said, adding that some of his friends are attending also.
Another first-time participant, Samantha Smith, 13, had high hopes for the weekend and looked forward to the learning activities that could help stem the tide of teen violence.
"Too many kids just have nothing to do and they get into bad behavior," the Elena Christian Junior High student said. "They are just born and then they are six feet under." Smith thought about her grandmother, who is 90-years-old and wondered if her peers would have such a long life.
"Kids are not living that long these days," she said.
The coalition is funded by a grant from the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention/Drug Free Communities (CSAP/DFC). The Village-V.I. Partners in Recovery (VIPR), a Westcare foundation affiliate, is the coalition's fiduciary agent.
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