3 April 2006 New York Summer Camps Tackle Underage Drinking


Monday, April 3, 2006

Source: American Camp Association-New York

Underage drinking among area youth is an issue that has gained considerable attention in recent years, causing concern among parents across the tri-state region.

While underage drinking is not nearly as widespread as media coverage would have you think, The American Camp Association-New York (ACA-NY), is stepping up with a prevention program that will reach 3,000 underage staff and 9,800 campers ages 10 and up this summer at many of ACA-NYs 250 affiliated day and resident camps in the greater metropolitan area.

ACA-NY Executive Director Adam Weinstein explains that unlike most underage drinking prevention efforts, which use scare tactics and repudiate rampant alcohol abuse, ACA-NYs will emphasize the positive behaviors of the majority rather than the negative behaviors of a few.

The unique, close-knit communities that form at summer camps are ideal for spreading affirmative messages about how most kids have fun without alcohol, Weinstein said.

The program was developed by H. Wesley Perkins, Ph.D. of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. It is based on his highly regarded Social Norms Theory, which asserts that young people often misperceive the attitudes and habits of their peers, and being creatures who want to fit in, they tend to model those misperceived peer norms.

However, Perkins has found that when educated about the real way in which their peers think about and deal with alcohol and other drugs, young people modify their behavior to match a more healthy reality.

This proven approach to changing young peoples attitudes about alcohol has been implemented successfully by schools and colleges across the country but this is first time it is being used in the camp setting.

Dr. Perkins believes that his constructive approach lends itself to the summer camp environment, where children learn powerful lessons in community, character-building, skill development and healthy living.

ACA-NYs Underage Drinking Prevention Program is made possible by Congressman John Sweeney and generous funding from the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. For a list of participating camps, please contact ACA-NY toll free at (800) 777-CAMP.

The American Camp Association (ACA) is a private, not-for-profit educational organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of summer camp experiences for children. ACA-New York represents one of the largest networks of camp professionals in the country with over 700 members from more than 250 affiliated camps. ACA-NY provides a variety of programs and services for camp professionals as well as current and prospective camp-goers and their families.