NEW HAVEN — Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Connecticut wants the public to know they are getting serious about underage drinking by calling on college students to spread the word among the state’s youngest drinkers.
At a press conference Monday at Southern Connecticut State University, the association announced a new competition for college students. Participants will compete by submitting public service announcements for TV that call on parents to warn children 8 to 14 about the dangers of underage alcohol consumption.
"We are parents, too. ... Ten is the onset age when children begin to drink," said Peter A. Berdon, executive director for Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Connecticut. The association represents the state’s alcohol distributors and organized the contest, cthe WSWC PSA Contest 2008,alled "Renewing the Spirit of Connecticut: Tackling Underage Drinking."
Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele, Southern Connecticut State University President Cheryl A. Norton and Jill Spineti, president of the Governor’s Prevention Partnership, joined in making the announcement in Southern’s Michael J. Adanti Student Center.
The association believes college students can be more effective in finding ways to communicate the message to both parents and young children. The theory is that students understand the problem because they have witnessed it firsthand.
T"Once I got into late middle school, I saw lots of students using alcohol to escape their problems. They saw it in their house, they thought it was OK, and they took it right from the cabinets," said Kerin Jaros-Dressler, 20, of Willimantic, a junior at Eastern Connecticut State University who attended the press conference.he Connecticut Coalition to Stop Underage Drinking, part of the Governor’s Prevention Partnership, reports that Connecticut children start consuming alcohol at age 11 on average, two years earlier than the national average.
Berdon pointed out that family and friends provide two-thirds of the alcohol used by underage drinkers, which makes them the target audience for the PSAs.
The contest will be open to all students enrolled in colleges and universities in Connecticut. Submissions must be received by April 15. Approved applicants may get a stipend of up to $150 to help with expenses in video production.
The grand prize winner gets $2,500, the second place winner gets $1,500, and the third place winner gets $1,000. The winning entry will be aired on network and cable television by the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers.
State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance praised the partnership between universities, alcohol distributors, educators and parents. "We in law enforcement cannot do this alone. We need parents on board. We need educators on board. ... If we can save one child, we’ve made a difference."
Alcohol distributors say they have long supported initiatives against underage drinking, but have now begun to work together for greater impact.
"We are very careful about how we market. This is a legal product at the age of 21. We will do everything we can to abide by the law and to help people not overconsume. Moderate consumption is appropriate, underage drinking is not appropriate," said Andrew Hillman of Connecticut Distributors.
To obtain an application or for more information, contact Kathryn Glendon, community program manager, by mail at Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Connecticut, 132 Temple St., New Haven 06510, by phone at 624-9900, orCQ by e-mail at email@example.com. All submissions must have a faculty adviser or be part of a college course.