April 30, 2021
Lakeland High School junior Katie Mulgrew took her message against teen drinking to
a wider stage, participating in the countywide Student-Led Town Hall on Underage Alcohol Use.
For the virtual town hall held last week by the Westchester Coalition for Drug and Alcohol Free Youth, Katie talked about the role she plays at school to help prevent underage substance abuse. A member of the school’s SADD Club, or Students Against Destructive Decisions, Katie was interviewed with two other students for a recorded segment that aired during the town hall.
“We acknowledged that our clubs at school play a really big role,” she said in a recent interview. “We make sure to encourage our friends to join these clubs because when you see a lot of people joining them, it makes you think, oh this could be something good for me. Then a lot of people get the message and understand that they should be doing whatever they can to help their friends avoid drinking.”
Along with student speakers from 11 high schools in the county, Westchester County Executive George Latimer and Westchester County District Attorney Mini Rocah spoke at the event, which featured community and youth leaders discussing successes and barriers related to underage drinking.
Katie, also a member of the Westchester Coalition for Drug and Alcohol Free Youth Leadership Task Force, appreciated the chance to hear from students in other school districts.
“I learned that there are a lot more kids than I thought who are interested in helping prevent underage substance use,” she said. “Sometimes, it feels like we are the only ones doing this work.”
While it was a little scary to see herself speak during the event, Katie was happy for the opportunity.
“Knowing that a lot of people were hearing what I had to say is good because it helps me know there are people who care about this issue,” she said. “I’m proud the county recognized that young people have something to say too, and that we are interested in helping to solve these issues. We don’t want to just stand by.”
Kaitlyn Marshall, the student assistance counselor at Lakeland High School and co-adviser of SADD, said Katie did a fantastic job at the town hall.
“She’s a shining light,” Ms. Marshall said. “She was poised, very mature and had nothing but important things to say about what SADD is doing and her role on the task force.”
“She’s such an integral part of our club,” she added. “She is so involved, she loves to spread awareness about important information pertaining to mental health, substance abuse and other SADD initiatives. We are so proud of her commitment to the well-being of Lakeland students.”
Katie said the SADD club encourages students to find alternatives to alcohol.
“The main message is that alcohol isn’t the only thing you can turn to,” she said. “We have plenty of alternatives within the school district. If you don’t want to reach out to somebody here, there’s always somebody in your life, whether it be a friend, a trusted family member or somebody else, there are always people out there willing to support you and create other opportunities for you.”
Students, she said, don’t need alcohol to enjoy themselves.
“A lot of people think you need to drink to have fun at parties,” she said. “You can go and hang out with your friends or go see a movie or go to the park and play sports. The alcohol is not what makes it fun; it’s the people you choose to spend your time with. Finding a good group of friends is the most important thing.”