Jason Harward co-editor-in-chief
Vivian Geilim opinion editor
Parents walk from room to room in what can only be described as a “haunted house” of reckless behavior. The binge drinking, fighting and even sexual assault portrayed, however, are not by accident–they are meant to shock parents into discussing difficult conversations about teenage drug and alcohol use.
The Norman Aid Center, in partnership with Straight Up Reality Improv, organized this immersive experience known as “Reality Party.” It is another way for parents and teens to learn about safe practices during Opt-Out October. Norman Aid Director Alison Norman-Franks believes the many events spearheaded by Norman Aid, including the Toast for Change and Red Ribbon Week, all have the same intention: student safety.
“Opt-out month is our drug and alcohol prevention month. It’s also the national Red Ribbon Week that’s happening at the end of the month,” Norman-Franks said. “We’re just doing different programs to try to help teens make good decisions so that, if they’re at parties, they’re making safe decisions.”
By experiencing “Reality Party,” parents got to see a hands-on depiction of what a high school party really looks like.
“So they’ll go to a local house in Beverly Hills and almost like a haunted house, they tour room to room and they see different ‘high-risk’ situations that can happen at a party–maybe a fight that breaks out or a girl who gets potentially sexually assaulted or somebody who drives away who’s been drinking,” Norman-Franks said.
To help act out the debauchery, Norman-Franks called on the advanced theater class, Theater Arts Workshop (TAW). Senior Solomon Margo, a member of TAW who took part in the improvised party, believed the scene opened parents’ eyes to possible dangers.
“I think the party did a great job at giving awareness to the parents. Though some parts may have arguably been an over exaggeration about what happens at high school parties in Beverly Hills, many parents have told me that they will be more aware and increase communication with their children,” Margo said.
Senior Daniel Kohanbash who acted as one of the teenagers at the reality party thinks the graphic presentation, although “extreme,” was more effective than traditional abstinence education.
“I think it does more than a speech would. The parents are the ones who typically have control of what their kids do,” Kohanbash said. “If there isn’t some sort of awareness within our community, kids can continue to do as they please, putting their lives and the lives of others at risk when partaking in these events.”
Teenagers grow from experience. Although some may choose to not opt out of drug and alcohol abuse, the idea of “Reality Party” isn’t meant to inhibit adolescents from drinking but merely to educate them about the dangers that lay in substance abuse and how to execute it safely.
“We want to put out the message to obviously opt out and not engage in underaged drinking or drugs, but we want to provide safe decisions to help students so that if they are going to party and if they are choosing to drink, we want to make sure that they have a plan and that they are safe,” Norman-Franks said.