**FILE**Mugs of beer are served at the Thrush Tavern in Montpelier, Vt., in this June 29, 2004 file photo. Twenty-three years after raising the legal drinking age to 21, Vermont lawmakers are re-visiting the issue, despite a federal law that would punish the state by withholding highway funding if it lowers the age minimum. Convinced that existing laws aren't working, state Sen. Hinda Miller has taken a first step by introducing a bill that would establish a task force to weigh the pros and cons and make a recommendation to the legislature later this year. AP Photo/Toby Talbot)
FROM SAFE STREETS -- Are you between the ages of 12-18 and looking to get involved in the community? Safe Streets has the perfect spot for you, a group called "the Force."
The Force is for youth in the Topeka area who are committed to being alcohol and drug free. The group provides a positive and safe place for youth to meet others, plan activities and participate in the community.
“As a student in high school it’s really easy to feel like everyone is drinking, but it’s not the truth – 72 percent of Shawnee County youth report they haven’t had a drink in the last 30 days,” said Hannah Helmke, a senior at Shawnee Heights High School and participant in the Force. “Our goal is to create a caring peer group that says ‘you're not alone.’”
In addition to combating underage drinking, the Force is also brainstorming ways to reach out to adults on issues such as social hosting and furnishing alcohol to minors.
“So far we have come up with a few ideas which we’ll be unveiling in the next couple of months,” said Riley Ringgold, a junior at Washburn Rural High School and Force member. “Our overall mission is to lower the underage drinking rate of Topeka to make it a capital that is both safe and fun. The majority of teens don't drink, so we are trying to spread that word.”
The Force meets the first Monday and the third Tuesday of every month from 6:30 – 8 p.m. at Safe Streets, 2209 SW 29th Street. All youth ages 12-18 are invited to attend. The next meeting dates are Tuesday, May 17 and Monday, June 6.
For more information on the meetings, please contact Lynn Smith, Safe Streets Youth Coordinator, at email@example.com or 266-4606.