It’s Saturday night. Do you know where your teen is?
Shelley Murpy, For the San Clemente Times
It truly took a village last weekend to bring to San Clemente High School “The Reality House Party”—a presentation tackling teen drug and alcohol prevention.
San Clemente parents attended the Oct. 10 interactive educational event made possible by the Wellness & Prevention Center in partnership with Straight Up Reality Improv, Orange County Sherriff’s Department, National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Community Outreach Alliance, City of San Clemente, Capistrano Unified School District and The Noble Path Foundation.
Teenage volunteers reenacted a typical weekend house party on the SCHS campus by replicating rooms of a house, and parents participated in a guided tour through the thirty minute party.
“Community response was impressive. Most parents agreed as a community we need to help our teens change the hardcore party culture and help them find healthier weekend options,” said Susan Parmelee, Wellness and Prevention Center program director at SCHS.
Parmelee brought the program to SCHS after seeing a reality house performance by Katherine Kasmir’s Straight Up group. Kasmir, executive director, said, “We use theater as a way of exploring community and social issues to bring about change.”
Straight Up started in 2005 when the Ventura Behavioral Health Department asked Kasmir to visit high school and college classrooms using her interactive theater techniques.
“The idea was to involve young people and listen to what they wanted changed, and what we heard was parties were really out of control and dangerous things were happening,” she said.
The first reality party happened in 2007. “The script wrote itself, we included things parents needed to understand: how kids get to parties, find out about them, and get alcohol,” Kasmir said. Straight Up’s constantly updating their script based on current drug and alcohol trends and the actors’ improvisation.
An important component of the program involves social media; it can turn a manageable party of 20 into a crowd of 200, attracting unintended party-goers.
“The internet can bring older people with other intentions to the same party as a 14 year-old girl who’s been playing drinking games for the first time and is passed out in a bedroom,” said Kasmir. “We need to be talking to our kids about alcohol and sex.”
Caden Presley, a SCHS freshman and volunteer actor, said he was surprised at how much drinking actually goes on at parties.
“I thought it was just a little but it’s hardcore whiskey and vodka and bottles upon bottles,” Presley said. “Parents should know a party can get out of control in a split second.”
After the tour parents participate in discussions led by Parmelee, OCSD Sergeant Mike Pixomates and Jodi Barber who lost her 19-year-old son to a drug overdose.
“Many parents were surprised to learn that adults can be cited and possibly jailed for providing alcohol to anyone under the age of 21,” Parmelee said.
Deputy Joe Bull of the OC Sheriff’s Department said after the tour, many parents ask the same question, How often does a party like that really happen?
“I (tell them) every weekend, in every one of our cities, and these parties are absolutely chaotic,” Bull said. “Knowledge is key. It’s a proven fact when parents talk to their kids about drugs and alcohol studies show kids are 50 percent less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.”
Friends, and parents of sophomore daughters, Lisa Guzman and Tracy Long attended together and like many parents left enlightened.
“I was surprised at the intensity of the drinking games and how kids are being cheered on to continue playing and drinking,” Long said.
Guzman agreed, adding that communication works.
“It’s so important for parents to communicate,” she said. “We’ve been able to prevent some things from happening to our kids by communicating.”
Kasmir reinforced conversation is crucial.
“We don’t want parents freaking out and not letting kids go to parties,” Kasmir said. “It’s really important to have meaningfully conversations with your kids—without lecturing. Conversation can help change the culture among parents to support change for our kids.”
For more information about the Wellness & Prevention Center, contact program director Susan Parmalee at 949.680.0516, email@example.com or log on to www.wellnessandpreventionsanclemente.com.
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