The writing was on the billboards for the Fresno City Council: “I choose my education over alcohol.”
The billboard near Roosevelt High School in southeast Fresno was among two in the ‘Taking Back Our Billboards’ campaign promoted by the Youth Leadership Institute’s Friday Night Live program in an effort to reduce alcohol advertising exposure to youth.
The youth worked with convenience store owners to convince the council last Wednesday to reform its policies on liquor licenses and store operations. The council will look at ways to cap number of liquor licenses and force new store owners to purchase existing liquor licenses and retire them in an effort to reduce the saturation of liquor stores in southeast and southwest Fresno.
“We did not create this situation overnight, and we’re not going to fix it overnight,” said Councilmember Luis Chávez, whose district covers southeast Fresno.
The billboards feature eight students with a promising statistic: 80 percent of Roosevelt High students have not used alcohol in the past 30 days.
Their survey also shows that 58 percent of youth see at least one alcohol advertisement each day, 23 percent have gotten alcohol from parents, and, 35 percent have had access to alcohol from other adults they know.
“While working on our Positive Social Norms Peer Campaign last school year to correct misperception around youth drinking norms, we became more aware of the number of alcohol ads youth see per day as well as the number of billboards that advertise alcohol near our school and neighborhood,” said Nuchia Vue, one of the Roosevelt FNL youth leaders.
“That is why this year we are spearheading the Take Back Our Billboard Campaign to “take back” the billboard space and place our own ads encouraging healthy decision making and highlighting the healthy decisions youth are already making in choosing not to drink alcohol.”
“As Roosevelt students we are proud to declare that we are making the healthy choice by choosing our education over alcohol and putting up this positive billboard message to empower youth to be proud of the healthy choices that they are making,” Vue said.
Approximately 700 Roosevelt High School students were surveyed about alcohol drinking behaviors and norms using the Students Insights Survey.
Roosevelt High School FNL youth leaders hope to educate the community about underage drinking rates and true youth drinking norms, as well as to empower and encourage youth in the community to be proud about the healthy choices they are already making.
“Youth all over Fresno County are leading campaigns to make their communities safer and a healthier place to live,” said Nicole Lee, a Friday Night Live Youth Leader and a sophomore at Roosevelt High school. “They are addressing the issue of underage drinking and trying to make their communities a place where they can thrive.”
The billboard ads were designed by the students in the Roosevelt FNL chapter in partnership with Outfront Media to celebrate the healthy choice Roosevelt students are making over alcohol.
The campaign is funded by the California Office of Traffic Safety, California Friday night live Partnership, and the Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health, Substance Use Disorder Services.
Youth Leadership Institute and Friday Night Live work to develop youth and build communities where young people and their adult allies come together to create positive change.
Friday Night Live youth leaders also conducted an assessment on the number of large billboards with alcohol ads near the seven major high schools in Fresno; such as Roosevelt, Sunnyside, McLane, Duncan Polytechnical, Hoover, Bullard, and Fresno High.
Three of those high schools have alcohol billboard ads within a mile radius of their school campus.
“We will be educating and sharing this data with parents, larger community and decision makers to recommend a policy that would limit alcohol billboard ads from being placed in close proximity to schools and youth spaces,” said Nuchia Vue. “By limiting the number of ads youth see and are exposed to, we hope to reduce the likelihood that youth will want to try the product.”
Youth leader Christina García said, “as a community we can work together to reduce underage drinking from limiting exposure to advertisements in close proximity to youth spaces to reducing access.”
“It’s especially important in the home, since a large percentage of youth who drink are accessing alcohol from adults they know,” García added. “Fresno County FNL youth leaders want to educate families through the Not on My Watch (NOMW) Campaign, a countywide movement which aims to reduce underage access to alcohol by empowering families to institute a family alcohol policy and put up a lawn sign in front of their house stating they will not support or supply alcohol to minors in their home.”
García said Fresno County will be joining over 50 counties in the state of California who implement the Friday Night Live Program to take a stand to ensure underage drinking and all its negative consequences will not happen “on our watch.”
“Our goal is to reach as many households as we can, and together help reduce underage drinking rates in Fresno County,” García said.