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Sticker Shock

High school students, from left, Cody Smith, Nicole Gallup and Ryda Sundila participated in the Sticker Shock project last year.
Teens campaign to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors

On April 16, more than 100 Kalamazoo County students from ages 14-19 will walk into alcohol-selling businesses throughout the Kalamazoo area to tag multi-packs of alcoholic beverages with stickers that read “Buy for a minor today, tomorrow you’ll be locked away.”

The annual tagging effort, called Project Sticker Shock, is sponsored by the Kalamazoo County Substance Abuse Task Force. The task force is housed at Prevention Works Inc., a local organization dedicated to preventing substance abuse among youth. A partnership among the task force’s Youth Action Team and alcohol-selling businesses, Project Sticker Shock is aimed at making adults who go into the stores to buy alcohol for youth think twice before they do.

“We do it every spring because that’s prom and graduation season,” says Dani Persky, Prevention Works’ fund development and health marketing coordinator. “Underage drinking tends to rise along with youth car accidents and fatalities during that time.”

The most common way Kalamazoo County high school students get alcohol is by having it given to them by someone, according to a 2013 Michigan Profile for Health Youth survey. More than 75 percent of Kalamazoo County minors who consumed alcohol said they got it from an acquaintance or family member, according to the survey. 

The survey also revealed that 60 percent of Kalamazoo County high school students said alcohol is easy to obtain and that 26 percent of county 11th-graders had drunk alcohol in the previous 30 days.

Project Sticker Shock, which happens in communities throughout the country, began in this area seven years ago, and the number of youth and alcohol-selling vendors participating has increased every year. In 2015, the campaign had more than 100 students placing more than 8,500 stickers on multi-packs of alcoholic beverages throughout Kalamazoo County, Persky says.

Among the organizations that participated were Hackett Catholic Prep, Jeter’s Leaders of Kalamazoo, the Portage Youth Advisory Committee and Prevention Works’ Peer Power program, Persky says.

“I know we live in a community that cares about preventing underage drinking,” she says.

This is Portage Northern High School junior Megna Joshi’s first year with the Youth Action Team and her first year participating in Project Sticker Shock. “Sticker Shock shows adults and children in this area that selling to minors is a big issue and needs to be stopped,” Joshi says. “I’m participating because it’s a great way to help my community and spread the word about selling to minors.”

Khalil Adams, a junior at Kalamazoo Central High School, has participated in Project Sticker Shock for three years.

“We have a good time going from business to business to place the Sticker Shock stickers on the alcohol,” Adams says. “It is also a great chance to meet other peers with the same values, which is having fun without drinking.”

Persky says the youth are involved in every aspect of Project Sticker Shock, from the design of the stickers, posters, T-shirts and billboards to the implementation of the campaign. She says youth involvement continues to grow because members such as Joshi and Adams spread the word about Project Sticker Shock and encourage their friends to get involved.

“Sticker Shock empowers youth in our community to know they have the ability to make a difference,” she says. “It shows that they stand behind our message.”

J. Gabriel Ware

An editorial intern at Encore, J. Gabriel explored historic curb cuts and the nonprofit Jamaica Rehab Partners for this month’s issue. While working on his story Therapeutic Mission, J. Gabriel got a glimpse of the lives of poor patients in Jamaica and a special bond between father and daughter. “This is the most significant story I have written so far. I attempted to tell many stories in this one piece because I felt that each one of them needed to be told,” he says. J. Gabriel will be a senior at Western Michigan University this fall.

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