Mental Illness Documentary, Underage Drinking Discussion Dominate Westport Youth Commission Agenda

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On April 23 the Westport Youth Commission met at Town Hall and spoke about the upcoming Teen Awareness Group (TAG) event the documentary “No Kidding, Me Too!” by Joey Pantoliano, as well as the recent community conversation on underage drinking on April 22.

Pantoliano’s documentary features a look at depression, including the stereotypes and stigma that typically accompany it. Pantoliano was diagnosed with clinical depression three years ago and decided to announce his illness and raise awareness about it.

“[The documentary] is about a subject people don’t talk about that much,” said TAG and Westport Youth Commission member Lucy Colgan ’10.

There will be a showing of the documentary on April 22 from 7 p.m to 9 p.m. at Staples High School. At the event, there will be a question and answer session with Pantoliano and a panel of local professionals; the event is also completely free.

“I think it’s going to be really interesting,” said Elaine Daignault, the coordinator of youth services and the Westport Mentor Program.

The meeting continued with conversation concerning the underage drinking event.

In a survey conducted by TAG released at the event, it stated that 60-70 percent of students had driven a car while drinking. Concerns about prevalence and validity of this statistic were questioned.

Westport Police Detective Jill Ruggiero asked if there was a follow-up question on the frequency of this action among teenagers. Colgan responded in saying she did not believe such a follow-up question was asked.

Another concern expressed regarding the survey was the legitimacy of the results.

“[I think that students] said it just to say it,” said Jordan Ratner ’10, a Westport Youth Commission member.

Others agreed that the results were not entirely valid because the survey was conducted during lunch where students could be tempted by friends to give falsified answers.

This conversation then sparked another discussion about the new Safe Rides program that has been created by Alex Dulin ’10 and has been supported by both TAG and the Westport Youth Commission.

“Alex Dulin did an incredible job in making this happen,” said Daignault.

So far over 75 students and five or six adults have signed up to volunteer. The low number of adult volunteers concerned Daignult, and she asked others present at the meeting to volunteer or spread the word to other interested adults.

Towards the latter part of the meeting, the results of two presentations from the iMentor Committee, an Internet Safety committee with the mission to educate middle school students on how to use the internet correctly and safely, at the Westport Public Library and Town Hall were shared, and appeared to have been great successes.

After looking through some of the exit survey results from the presentations, Hopkins student and Westport Youth Commission member Michael Gold ’10 observed that parents were very thankful such a program existed to educate their children.

The meeting concluded with an update from the Board Development Committee. The Westport Youth Commission hopes to spread the word of forming a possible freshman committee to middle school students on their morning shows.

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