Michael Stern doesn't mind being called a teetotaler. He likes to practice what he preaches.
Stern, who is the new deputy district attorney, was one of several speakers at a Friday breakfast that launched Grand Futures Prevention Coaltion's efforts to stop underage drinking and alcohol abuse.
Stern said he used to drink "a few sips of wine per year," but was never much of a drinker. During his college years, it wasn't too hard to resist drinking, he said.
"Projectile vomiting just didn't look like a good social activity," he said.
In a society where drinking is portrayed as attractive and acceptable, children are bombarded with messages about alcohol.
Stern said community members should work to make children understand that drinking isn't all that glamorous.
"Wearing a lampshade and throwing up on someone really isn't that attractive," Stern said.
Parents need to lead by example by keeping their own drinking under control, he said.
Assistant District Attorney Amy Fitch recounted to the audience a case she worked on in which two 17-year-old boys died after drinking beer provided by one of the boy's parents. The boys were playing with a gun when one was shot to death. Overcome by grief, the other boy turned the gun on himself.
"I couldn't get over what a horrible waste of human life this was," Fitch said.
The only way to deter underage drinking and the tragedies associated with it, Fitch said, is for the community to address the problem.
"We as a community have to be invested in this," she said. "Intervene even if they aren't your own children."
Grand Futures Director Cindy Biskup said the breakfast was a good way to celebrate Red Ribbon Week and kick off the awareness campaign. She said she hope the event became a yearly event.
At the breakfast, the group handed out surveys to audience members. The surveys are meant to help the organization address the drinking problem, said Grand Futures underage drinking specialist Misty Schulze said.
Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or firstname.lastname@example.org.