Tracker Pixel for Entry

The Low Down on High Risk High

by HPR Contributor | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Culture | August 25th, 2011

By Jenni Lou Russi

Last Friday night
Yeah we danced on tabletops
And we took too many shots
Think we kissed but I forgot
Last Friday night
Yeah we maxed our credit cards
And got kicked out of the bar
So we hit the boulevard
-Katy Perry “Last Friday Night”

Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night”, the song in the top position for Hot 100 Billboard chart, recounts the costs incurred when people over-indulge in their drinking and spending habits while having a good time. Aimed at young people, including teens, the song’s lyrics hit close to home in North Dakota, where the cost of underage drinking is quite high. According to the Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center (www.udetc.org), in 2007 underage drinking cost North Dakota $141 million, or $2,000 per youth. These costs included medical expenses and lost wages.

Meg Luther Lindholm, producer for High Risk High, a project supported by Prairie Public Radio, recognizes that money and/or tragedy is the way to get people’s attention. “Unless there’s a tragedy, like somebody freezing or someone found floating in the Red River . . . Everyone’s attention would turn to the question of, you know, ‘How did this happen? Why did this happen?’ and the issue would die back down, as it always has, with little or no discussion of the issue of drinking, drinking among the young,” she said.

Lindholm’s attention was caught by a single statistic. “You know, it really wasn’t until I was in my car driving one day and a short story came across on the Prairie Public newscast saying that North Dakota ranked first in the nation for underage binge drinking, and that first in the nation really caught my attention.”

A media professional, Lindholm had produced a public affairs talk show in New York City for four and a half years. She moved to the Fargo-Moorhead area to join the man to whom she is now married. Wanting to go below the surface and find out what’s going on, Lindholm went to Bill Thomas, director of Radio at Prairie Public, with whom she had worked on other projects. “A one hour documentary was the original idea.” Thomas said. Their goal was to advance discussion on the problem, not come up with solutions, or preach, or counsel, and Lindholm was confident she could get people to talk. “With every project I’ve ever done, what I always find is that people want to open up and share their experiences, all it takes is for someone to open up the subject and ask,” she said.

They spent a year trying to get funding for the project. Sponsors were difficult to come by at first, but when funding did come, the project steadily grew in the last two years. Currently sponsored by the Otto Bremer Foundation, the North Dakota Department of Human Services, and the Fargo-Moorhead Area Foundation, as well as Prairie Public’s members and funders, High Risk High’s project stories, detailing personal experiences based on underage drinking in North Dakota, have aired on Prairie Public Radio, and are featured on the project’s website, www.highriskhigh.org. Combining the website with public radio broadcasts broadens the discussion throughout the state. Thomas notes that this discussion includes teachers, civic leaders, legislators, and parents. Lindholm, Thomas, and others with the project also lead discussions in communities and presentations in classrooms – free of charge.

“One of the things I’m hoping to do this fall is have some public forums where we talk about how parents can communicate effectively with their kids about alcohol,” Lindholm said. “I think that there’s a middle ground.”

Lindholm finds room for everyone in that middle ground discussion, interviewing a bartender in Grand Forks who describes a changing culture, where bar owners compete for business. She notes that there are alcohol-free options for students in Grand Forks, citing Night Life @ UND, a program that provides free events on weekends throughout the academic year.

Offering opportunities to allow young people to initiate their own discussions, High Risk High created High School and College Facebook groups where discussion threads are often initiated by students who Lindholm describes as Facebook Producers.

Carrie Sandstrom is one of those producers. A high school senior in Bismarck, she became involved last January, starting the High School Group. “We were discussing different ways to engage teenagers, and Facebook is something that practically everybody uses and we have access to a lot of people through it,” she said. Sandstrom has been involved with SADD since 7th grade, and was recently chosen as SADD student of the year. She describes the High Risk High –High School Facebook group as being a safe place for high school students to openly discuss issues where only members of the group can participate, noting that courage in the thread posts is rewarded with respect. “What I’ve experienced from a lot of my peers is respect, because when you stand up for what you believe in, people respect you regardless of whether they agree with you – or not,” she said. Sandstrom takes her role very seriously and tries to post at least once a week to keep the group active with discussions, stressing that the High Risk High – High School Facebook group is without judgment. “It’s just a place for everyone to voice any comments and concerns, but those comments and concerns don’t leave the group and they’re there for people to talk about – the hard things,” she said.

The project’s mission is to encourage discussion, without judgment, or answers. As the project’s Executive Producer, Thomas states that the personal stories offer people “a better understanding of binge drinking among youth – that’s a little different than having a solution. We’re giving you a lot of information.”

Personal stories and discussions about underage binge drinking in North Dakota may redefine what we consider to be tragedies in North Dakota. “We still define tragedy as someone dying,” Lindholm said, “rather than a kid dropping out of school, or getting kicked off a sports team, or having to cook a meal for sibblings because mom is too inebriated to be able to do that, or being the victim of date rape.“

There’s plenty to discuss in North Dakota. An Associated Press article dated July 5, 2011, (http://tiny.cc/BingeRates) cites evidence that college binge drinking in North Dakota is on a slow decline.

On the other hand, on July 28, 2011, Jonathan Shorman reported in USA TODAY ((http://tiny.cc/NDbinge) that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration named North Dakota as the state with the highest percentage of binge drinking for ages 12 and older, which includes residents of age.

New information and insights create additional perspectives on alcohol use and abuse, affecting all ages. Via the High Risk High website, live presentations and discussions, Facebook groups, and radio broadcast stories, Lindholm extends an invitation: ““Be a part of the conversation . . . about drinking.”

Questions and comments: jennilou.russi@vcsu.edu

INFO BOX:

www.highriskhigh.org

High Risk High – High School (Facebook Group)

High Risk High – College (Facebook Group)

www.prairiepublic.org/radio

Recently in:

News

Destroying heritage

by C.S. Hagen

GRAND FORKS – Residual racism is a leading reason why the University of North Dakota plans to demolish the last brick-and-mortar remnants of Wesley College, some historians say. Wesley College, a former Methodist school, merged…

Last week we talked about my lack of photographic skills and then what the heck am I going to do with all of these bad pictures that I take. Storage options for those pictures continues this week:RAIDAnother storage option is a…

Friday, April 27, 9pm-howlingThe Aquarium, 226 N BroadwayWith each member armed with a bass drum this footstompin’ four piece is here to kick FM into a dance-dance overdrive. There’s a reason they’ve oft been referred to as…

There’s something to be said about the art of listening. Effective communication is like playing a game of catch, you need to bounce the conversation ball back and forth to keep it going. I never was one much for sports-ball but…

Maybe We Should Quote "The Raven" MoreThe January National Geographic magazine has a remarkable article about the 10,000 species of birds that live around and above us, and it prompted me to recall some of the species I have…

FARGO - A collection of memories from High Plains Reader's annual Cocktail Showdown. Participants were judged on creativity, flavor, and presentation; and this year we added a new category. Like years before, each establishment was…

All About Food

​Oysters

by HPR Staff

By Ben Myhrebenmyhre35@gmail.comAs a North Dakota native, raw oysters are just not a food staple that I think about. We are about as far from the coasts as we can get and we have a backyard full of tasty local cuisine, like walleye…

By Cindy Nicholscindy.nichols@ndsu.eduI find myself almost weepy with appreciation, these days, for any small reprieve I can find from chronic sickness-at-heart; any small mercy that either helps me to forget about 45 for an hour,…

Longtime writing partners Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein make their joint directorial debut but don’t quite get everything right in “I Feel Pretty,” an Amy Schumer vehicle that jettisons the hard-R ribaldry of…

Originally from Turkey, Tülin ÖZSİSLİ is a visiting scientist at NDSU. She has created art inspired by science with bright and active acrylics, oils and watercolors.  “Painting is essential in my life for expressing my…

By Nathan Roybardsdream@gmail.comYou are absolutely right. The title is not “To be or not to be” from the famous Shakespeare soliloquy in "Hamlet." I won’t be talking about Shakespeare particularly. I will expound the…

Fargo has its share of people who are passionate about stand-up comedy, even if the success of clubs devoted to it has been mixed. Despite the fact we have seen places like Courtney’s Comedy Club and Level 2 Comedy Club close…

I consider myself an avid wine drinker, but I recently found out there are more than 10,000 varieties of grapes, and about 1,500 of those are used to make commercial wines. I don’t know about you, but I could probably name about…

I was amid some of the worst anxiety I have experienced in my life. I was worried about money, moving and multiple other things. My chest felt heavy and was dominated by a feeling of constriction and restriction; to both my life…

By Melissa Martin melissamartincounselor@live.com “I’m sorry” are two vital words to be used in relationships because human beings are imperfect people living in imperfect environments. Ask yourself the following…

Calm was the day in late JulyAnd bright was the sun across the skyBut inside his chest the calm had brokenGovernor Sinner had started croakin’.I laughed the first time I read that, and I’m still laughing every time I think…