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March 28, 2011 10:32 PM

Panel Discusses Dangers Of Teen Alcohol Abuse

Hartford, SD

With prom and graduation parties coming up soon, the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse among teenagers are at the forefront. And for one KELOLAND school, the consequences hit especially close to home.

18-year-old West Central High School student Dustin Holter died in May 2006 driving home from a graduation party. Alcohol and high speed were determined to be factors in the crash. And five years later, West Central's determined to drive home its message to prevent another situation like that from happening again.

For the past four years, Hartford parent Orlin Punt has attended the annual West Central Town Hall meeting.

"Like every parent that has a daughter or son out there driving, we really don't want to have that phone call or visit during the night saying your child's been in an accident," Orlin Punt said.

Punt has four sons, ranging from ages 9 to 15.

"My second oldest, Joshua, he's going to start driving here next year," Punt said. "So, for me, it's important for him to see what effects drinking has."

"It's a good experience," Joshua Punt said. "You learn a lot and I'm taking drivers ed next year, so it just teaches me more and more."

For more than an hour, a diverse panel of counselors, parents and even recovering addicts talked about the consequences of alcohol and illegal drug use.

"We want to be able to reach out to everybody and have the services available to them," West Central High School counselor Michelle Pliska said. "That they know where to go to when they run into risky situations where they'd like some help or they're worried about a friend."

The group covered a wide variety of issues. And while it's too early to tell whether the message was effective, West Central counselor Michelle Pliska says the open dialogue is a start.

"I think we're planting seeds," Pliska said. "We might not solve everything right here and right now at this town hall, but we're planting seeds for students to refer back to."

Punt says one reason he's come to the meeting four straight years is not only so his kids can learn, but he can learn as well. He says the panel's have offered different strategies and tips on how to talk to his kids about alcohol and drugs.
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