Riverhead Students Combat Youth Substance Use
Riverhead Youth Coalition Raises Awareness Through Community Initiatives
RIVERHEAD, NEW YORK (JANUARY 2024) — Riverhead Central School District students in the Riverhead Youth Coalition (RYC) have worked together to develop and implement community initiatives to raise awareness of youth substance use, reduce its prevalence, and promote preventative measures. RYC consists of Riverhead Middle School and Riverhead High School students. It is the youth sector of the Riverhead Community Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Youth under its lead agency, Riverhead Community Awareness Program, Inc. (CAP).
“The Riverhead Youth Coalition provides an excellent opportunity for students to serve their community while enhancing their leadership and cooperation skills,” said Riverhead Central School District Interim Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich. “Our district is proud of the incredible work these students have done, and we extend our gratitude to Riverhead CAP for their partnership in facilitating this program.”
This school year, RYC has eagerly expanded its Sticker Shock campaign to educate the public on the consequences of knowingly allowing underage drinking or drug use. With the assistance of the Riverhead Police Department, the campaign now extends to Wading River and includes partnerships with additional businesses to place brightly colored stickers on their products that warn customers about the penalties for providing alcohol and drugs to minors. Adults who knowingly allow underage drinking or drug consumption can be charged with a misdemeanor under the Suffolk County Social Host Law, with penalties including a $1,000 fine and/or one year in jail.
Wading River Pizza, Pazzo Ristorante, and Cucina 25 are participating in this initiative and include the stickers on their pizza boxes. Wading River Beverage joined Riverhead Beverage—a longtime participant in the Sticker Shock campaign—in allowing RYC members to place stickers on multipacks of beer and coolers at their stores.
“Businesses that support initiatives to prevent and reduce underage drinking demonstrate a sincere commitment to keeping our youth and communities healthy and safe,” said Riverhead CAP Coalition Coordinator and Community Prevention Specialist Isabella Marcucci.
RYC has engaged in additional initiatives to serve the community as well. In observation of Medicine Abuse Awareness Month in October, RYC helped the Riverhead Police Department collect unused, unwanted, and expired medication at the Town of Riverhead’s Stop Throwing Out Pollutants Day. A total of 157 pounds of medication was collected from community members and disposed. The group also wrote and recorded radio public service announcements (PSAs) about medicine safety and safe disposal in October and November and prepared its annual PSA discouraging impaired and drunk driving for the holiday season in observance of National Impaired Driving Prevention Month in December. These PSAs aired on the radio station 101.7 The Beach.
In addition, RYC members conducted beach cleanups at Reeves Beach and South Jamesport Beach. Approximately 60 pounds of garbage were collected, enhancing the health and cleanliness of the environment, protecting wildlife, and improving the experience of community members frequenting the beaches. Students observed that although alcohol use is prohibited at local beaches, the garbage collected conveyed these regulations were being ignored, as beer bottles, Twisted Tea cans, and vape pods were found. This project also supported RYC’s data collection through environmental scans. This initiative allows RYC to identify a community’s risk factors that can contribute to underage alcohol and drug use.
Riverhead CAP is the lead coordinating agency for the Riverhead Community Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Youth, whose mission is to engage collaborative partners in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of strategies that prevent youth substance use. In 2013 and 2018, the coalition was awarded a 5-year Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Grant through the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). In 2019, the coalition was named Coalition of the Year by Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), the nation’s leading drug prevention organization, for demonstrating long-term outcomes in reducing underage drinking. For more information about the coalition or to participate, call Riverhead CAP at (631) 727-3722 or visit RiverheadCAP.org.
Riverhead Middle School and Riverhead High School students can join the RYC program by contacting Cynthia Redmond at Cynthia.Redmond@RiverheadCAP.org.