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It is up to All of Us

Friday, August 9, 2013

We are sharing a letter, a plea, from a mother who is sharing her story from last year. We hope you will continue to talk to your student about alcohol. Thank you for taking the time to read this letter and for engaging your student(s) in this conversation. We also deeply appreciate Lynn for her courage in sharing this with all of us.

Cindy Wallace, Vice Chancellor for Student Development and J.J. Brown, Dean of Students

Warning

You NEVER want to get a call from ASU Police saying “We have a body”. I DID, and it was the longest hour and 22 minutes drive I ever had IN MY LIFE coming to the Watauga Medical Center to identify my son.

The phone call that no parent ever wants to receive…

This goes out to you from my heart to yours. I am the Mother of Tyler L. Blalock; my son died his sophomore year (Sept. 29, 2012) while attending ASU from underage drinking with a fake ID.

My son was 19 yrs old no different from yours – he came from great community roots with church, sports, family and friends he had since he was a baby. All of the parents in our community held fast to the motto “it takes a village to raise a child,” and we watched out for one another. If our kids needed to be “straightened out,” we welcomed each other to do so. In many ways, this is much like the campaign, “It’s Up to Me,” which promotes the notion, “If You See Something, Say Something.” I am writing to ask you to go one step farther, and “DO SOMETHING” too. Our young adults need to know THEY CAN HELP one another, and they need not be afraid to take action for fear that they might get a negative response. Stepping up is the right thing to do. IT COULD SAVE A LIFE.

Here is my story:

Tyler went to an apartment behind Hardees where they were drinking and partying. He then left to go to Wal-Mart to buy a friend beer with his fake ID. He returned to the party, and from there he walked to a bar (Klondike) just across the street from ASU campus with a group of people. This group left him at the bar and when he left, he got no further than crossing the street to Kraut creek that runs through campus (not even the length of a football field). This is where he allegedly he stopped to relieve himself and fell hitting a rock, knocking himself unconscious face down - cause of death “drowning”. He was an award winning swimmer and a lifeguard for 2 yrs., yet he drowned in less than a foot of water. It has been stated by several of the people he was with that he was heavily intoxicated (.26 blood/alcohol level to be exact). So one question remains to haunt me to this day and for the rest of my life - Why didn’t someone DO SOMETHING, ANYTHING??? No charges were filed, nobody takes responsibility or expresses remorse for not helping another human being who was clearly in need of help, and all anyone can say is “I am so sorry for your loss”.

Parents, students, anybody who is reading this please talk to one another; seek education about the dangers of not only alcohol but cocaine, prescription drugs, marijuana, meth, and heroin. The list goes on, but as you well know education gives you power to help make a difference.

My faith tells me, “All things are for our good,” and I have to live by that, so, I am on a mission much greater than me or Tyler. I am taking the lead to help promote change, change in the Boone community, the ASU Campus and most importantly to tell ASU students that the time to ACT is now.

I have joined Watauga Substance Abuse Prevention (WSAP). Angela Hagaman and Hollie Storie co-chair this group and they can be reached at 828-264-5174. They would gladly welcome your participation on this multi-sectored community coalition. At ASU, I am working with Kendal McDevitt, Wellness Promotion Coordinator, and she can be reached at 828-262-2060. I also welcome anyone to call me directly if they have any questions or concerns at 704-906-1135.

I leave you with a final plea: Please help me to honor my son and all the other young men and women who have died before they had a chance to make a difference in this world.

“It is up to All of Us”.

Research Shows: Parental Influence Prevents Alcohol-Related Consequences

Parents – you’re not done yet! While it’s up to all of us to prevent and reduce alcohol-related consequences among Appalachian students, research shows that parental involvement significantly reduces alcohol-related consequences among students – including academic failure, injury, sexual assault, alcohol poisoning and death.

In cooperation with William DeJong, Director of the Higher Education Center, and Linda Devine, Assistant Dean of Student Life at the University of Oregon, College Parents of America has developed the following eight talking points to assist parents in talking with their students about alcohol.

  1. Set clear and realistic expectations regarding academic performance.

    Studies conducted nationally have demonstrated that partying may contribute as much to a student’s decline in grades as the difficulty of his or her academic work. If students know their parents expect sound academic work, they are likely to be more devoted to their studies and have less time to get in trouble with alcohol.

  2. Stress to students that alcohol is toxic and excessive consumption can fatally poison.

    This is not a scare tactic. The fact is students die every year from alcohol poisoning. Discourage dangerous drinking through participation in drinking games, fraternity hazing, or in any other way. Parents should ask their students to also have the courage to intervene when they see someone putting their life at risk through participation in dangerous drinking.

  3. Tell students to intervene when classmates are in trouble with alcohol.

    Nothing is more tragic than an unconscious student being left to die while others either fail to recognize that the student is in jeopardy or fail to call for help due to fear of getting the student in trouble.

  4. Tell students to stand up for their right to a safe academic environment.

    Students who do not drink can be affected by the behavior of those who do, ranging from interrupted study time to assault or unwanted sexual advances. Students can confront these problems directly by discussing them with the offender. If that fails, they should notify the housing director or other residence hall staff.

  5. Know the alcohol scene on campus and talk to students about it.

    Students grossly exaggerate the use of alcohol and other drugs by their peers. A recent survey found that University of Oregon students believed 96 percent of their peers drink alcohol at least once a week, when the actual rate was 52 percent. Students are highly influenced by peers and tend to drink up to what they perceive to be the norm. Confronting misperceptions about alcohol use is vital.

  6. Avoid tales of drinking exploits from your own college years.

    Entertaining students with stories of drinking back in “the good old days” normalizes what, even then, was abnormal behavior. It also appears to give parental approval to dangerous alcohol consumption.

  7. Encourage your student to volunteer in community work.

    In addition to structuring free time, volunteerism provides students with opportunities to develop job-related skills and to gain valuable experience. Helping others also gives students a broader outlook and a healthier perspective on the opportunities they enjoy. Volunteer work on campus helps students further connect with their school, increasing the likelihood of staying in college.

  8. Make it clear — Underage alcohol consumption and alcohol-impaired driving are against the law.

    Parents should make it clear that they do not condone breaking the law. Parents of college students should openly and clearly express disapproval of underage drinking and dangerous alcohol consumption. And, if parents themselves drink, they should present a positive role model in the responsible use of alcohol.

Talk with your student about alcohol. While parents may not be able to actively monitor students away from home, they can be available to talk and listen, and that is just as important. It can do more than help shape lives, it can save lives. Additionally, help direct students to the campus resources such as University Housing (housing.appstate.edu), the Counseling Center (counseling.appstate.edu), and the Student Wellness Center (wellness.appstate.edu).

Reprinted with the permission of College Parents of America, 2000 N. 14th Street, Suite 800, Arlington, VA 22201-2540. Call toll-free 1-888-761-6702 for additional information or, visit our web site at http://www.collegeparents.org.

This guide is excerpted from an article by William DeJong, Director of the Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention, and Linda Devine, Assistant Dean of Student Life at the University of Oregon. The original article appeared in The College Parent Advisor, published by College Parents of America.