Head of new advocacy group to bring message to middle schools

2014-08-15 / Health & Wellness

The Acorn Newspaper August 15, 2014 Camarillo CA

Head of new advocacy group to bring message to middle schools

By Stephanie Guzman
sguzman@theacorn.com

Karen Wrolson has long known the difficulties of keeping drugs and alcohol out of the hands of high school students.

She is, after all, the mother of two grown children and remembers their experiences as teenagers facing peer pressure to try alcohol. But the new head of Saving Lives Camarillo, a group that aims to stop drinking and drug use by teens, said she was surprised to learn that youngsters are taking their first sip of liquor as young as the fifth grade.

An informal survey of Adolfo Camarillo High School students done by Saving Lives Camarillo last year showed how young kids are exposed to drinking and drugs. The survey also revealed most Camarillo teens that drink said they had their first taste of alcohol in middle school.

Wrolson said because of the survey’s results, her goal this year is to start an anti-alcohol campaign in Camarillo middle schools. The new program will kick off this school year at Monte Vista Middle School.

Wrolson, a Camarillo resident, said the students themselves will lead the new initiative. “We plan to identify a group of student leaders within the school, and those students will help create activities for the other students to help young people realize the dangers of alcohol and drugs,” Wrolson said.

The second part of the new campaign will address Camarillo parents who host parties for underage drinkers. “The campaign will focus on social hosting laws within our city with the slogan, ‘Those who host lose the most,’” Wrolson said.

The city of Camarillo adopted social host laws in 2006. A homeowner can be fined $500 for hosting a party with underage drinkers, even if the homeowner was unaware of the party. The second violation is $1,000 and a third is $2,500. According to the Camarillo Police Department, 11 social host citations were issued in 2012.

Wrolson said the laws are working and the message of parent responsibility is spreading. In 2013, police only wrote two citations, and so far this year, only one citation has been written. “In the last six years, only one home has had a second violation, so they seem to get the message,” Wrolson said.

Still, teens are able to access alcohol. Wrolson said her organization used to assume teens obtained liquor from stores by asking adults to buy it for them. Yet the organization found most teenagers get alcohol from their parents’ pantry. “It’s usually from a household, so part of our message is, please lock up your alcohol because kids will take it to a party.”

As Saving Lives Camarillo’s new coalition community director, Wrolson said she looks forward to working with young people in the community.

In Wisconsin she has assisted in the development and management of two high schools for at-risk teenagers who often had substance abuse issues. She worked for the school district in Wisconsin between 1994 and 2011.

“It’s been my life’s mission to work with teenagers, and working with Saving Lives gives me the opportunity to continue to help young people make better life choices,” Wrolson said.

The educator has two master’s degrees in counseling and education and a business in Camarillo as a professional life coach. She is also a columnist for the Acorn.