Saturday, April 13, 2002

4,000 teens on square take pledge

No drugs, no tobacco, no alcohol

By Rebecca Billman,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        More than 4,000 teens streamed out of the Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center just before noon Friday and marched triumphantly to Fountain Square.

        They were accompanied by members of the Ohio National Guard and the Cincinnati Police Department, but it was no protest. It was a celebration of their decision to be drug, alcohol and tobacco-free.

        “Most young people don't do drugs, don't drink and don't smoke,” Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, told the crowd at the square.

        “You're not alone, but sometimes it's hard because of pressure. People look up to you and people are proud of you. You are leaders.”

        The students, who came to Cincinnati from all over the United States and 10 foreign countries, have been in town since Wednesday to attend the PRIDE World Youth Conference. The annual event is sponsored by the Parents Resource Institute for Drug Education, better known as PRIDE, an organization that promotes leadership and drug-free lifestyles.

        They partied on the square, laughing, posing for pictures in front of the fountain, playing kazoos, and dancing and singing.

        Joining them was Vice Mayor Alicia Reece, who proclaimed it PRIDE Celebrate Youth Week 2002.

        The students, many of whom belong to PRIDE programs at their schools, learned strategies to resist peer pressure to use drugs and drink, and to influence others to follow their lead.

        “I'm drug free,” said Brittany Davinc, 13, an eighth-grader at Kendallville (Ind.) Middle School. At the conference “we've learned leadership and to come together as one.”

        Upton Darden, a 16-year-old sophomore at Taft High School, said his goal was to “stay drug free throughout my high school career and hopefully for the rest of my life.”

        Atlanta-based PRIDE released a survey Thursday that showed that Ohio's students reported the biggest decrease in alcohol, drug and tobacco use in the country in the past three years.


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