Teenagers making the right choices — and what happens when you make the wrong choices in life — will be at the center of an annual event that take a hard look at alcohol, drugs and the busy lives of Birmingham teenagers.
The Birmingham Bloomfield Community Coalition's (BBCC) Youth Action Board will host the annual CHOICES: A Youth-Led Dialogue Day next Tuesday at the First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham.
This year, 48th District Court Judge Diane D'Agostini — a BBCC board member — will hold "court" during the event, discussing pending court cases involving teenagers, drugs and alcohol. She'll then ask teens: what should happen next?
"In this position, I have a direct view of the choices that our teens are making, some of which are devastating to themselves and their families," D'Agostini said.
"Too often, individuals have very little regard for the law or its consequences," she added. "I anticipate that the court session and subsequent discussions will make a strong impact on the students to evaluate all options before they make that critical choice of whether to use drugs or alcohol."
Held every year by the BBCC, the annual CHOICES event is meant to bring students, parents and officials together to openly, and honestly, discuss real problems facing teens and how to find solutions.
The event is led by the BBCC's Youth Action Board, made up of teens from the Birmingham and Bloomfield area. While reaching teens is the priority, involving parents and other community members in the discussion is also important, orgnaizers say.
"The students have asked for this event because they recognize the seriousness of underage drinking and drug use, but at the same time, they feel that during this challenging time in their lives, they are not always heard," said Kelly Michaud, the BBCC's youth programs coordinator.
"Teens actually want parents to become more aware of what's happening with substance abuse," she added. "This is an equally important opportunity for parents to come together and start talking to one another and take an active role in understanding and changing the community norm."
Kendall Hitch, a junior at Seaholm High School and member of the Youth Action Board, agreed.
"Bringing the community together over issues such as subtance abuse is essential to beginning to solve the problem," she said. "When we all come together we can get everyone's perspective and work towards soluions that everyone can apreciate."
Following the presentation from D'Agostini, participants will also hear from Susie Gross, a Birmingham parent and clinical psychologist specializing in depression and anxiety, and Miss Michigan 2012 Angela Venditti, whose campaign focuses on keeping kids drug free. An area high school student will also talk about his experiences.
Students and parents will then break into separate discussion groups to talk about recent trends in substance abuse, what teens are talking about, social norms and more.
"CHOICES is like no other experience for high school students," said Kelsey McClear, a senior at Seaholm and another member of the Youth Action Board. "It's a day that revolves around students and the things they are going through."
CHOICES begins a little before 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 26, with check-in beginning at 8:15 p.m. The event ends at 12:30 p.m. For more information, as well as how to find student permission and transportation forms, visit www.bbcoalition.org.