Prom is often a milestone celebration for high school juniors and seniors, but it can end tragically for teens under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
That’s why officials from Upstream Prevention, Inc. and Empower Johnson County, partner with local schools each year for substance-free post-prom events. This year, Empoer, an organization dedicated to preventing youth substance abuse, provided $500 sponsorships to Franklin, Indian Creek, Greenwood and Edinburgh high schools for post-prom events at Kings Island amusement park in Mason, Ohio and Rascal’s Fun Zone in Whiteland.
Through fundraising efforts and sponsorships, parent committees are able to provide these events free of charge or at significantly discounted prices, said Miranda Broomfield, assistant community coordinator for Empower Johnson County.
“We know that prom night in particular can be more dangerous. You have inexperienced teen drivers out later than they normally would be,” she said. “With prom and graduation, there’s an increased likelihood of underage drinking. Any amount of alcohol increases the risk of fatal accidents for teens and sets them up for possible bad decision making.”
More than 85% of teens reported their peers are more likely to drive impaired than call their parents for help because they fear getting in trouble, according to a AAA insurance survey of teens ages 16 to 19.
Vehicular accidents are also the leading cause of death for 12 to 19-year-olds, according to American Addiction Centers.
The post-prom events provide a safe alternative to student gatherings that include drugs or alcohol, Broomfield said.
“Teens have this excitement and don’t want the night to end, and they have an opportunity to have a fun time and make those memories. Creating that experience is super important,” she said. “They have so much of their lives ahead of them, and every decision will take them one step closer or further away from their goals. We want a night like prom to be a night to remember, not regret.”
Paula Pendleton, an Indian Creek parent, is a member of Brave Backers, a nonprofit organization created in 2018 to revive the school’s post-prom events. While post-prom was scaled back during the past few years because of COVID restrictions, this year post-prom events will include Rascal’s Fun Zone the night of prom April 29 and a trip to King’s Island the next day, with transportation tickets, food and t-shirts included thanks to an almost $25,000 fundraising effort that included $3,000 from an Empower Johnson County grant and sponsorship, Pendleton said.
Brave Backers was also able to collect money from a volleyball fundraiser and Bingo events, she said.
“Statistically, it seems prom weekend is a big time and kids make poor decisions by drinking or doing drugs,” Pendleton said. “What we’re trying to do is prevent that and provide safe alternatives, occupying their time and keeping them safe. When they’re occupied, they’re less likely to participate in those behaviors.”
Greenwood Community High School’s post-prom committee raised about $13,000 with a Bingo event at the Greenwood Moose Lodge. With the money, the committee will be able to provide $35 tickets to Kings Island, including rides, transportation, food and drinks to the more than 400 students who have registered, said Samantha Young, a committee member.
The trip will take place May 6, a week after the April 29 prom because of the amusement park’s schedule, she said.
“I think it lets kids be able to go and have fun and do things together, something they haven’t been able to do since COVID,” Young said. “I think it’s very important to keep kids safe, and these are opportunities to stay together and be engaged. Kids learn from that and make positive and responsible decisions.”
Even with post-prom events, parents bear the most responsibility in instilling good habits in their children, Broomfield said.
Children of parents who view underage drinking as unacceptable are 80% less likely than their peers to drink, according to a survey from Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
“Parents are the strongest influence on whether or not their kids drink alcohol,” Broomfield said. “At Empower, we’re trying to get messages to parents to have sit-down conversations ahead of time, not when their kids are heading out the door. In the weeks leading up to prom, let them know you don’t want them drinking alcohol, talk to them about avoiding peer pressure and plan, if they’re in an unsafe situation, how to get out of that situation and have a safe ride home.”