Westhampton Beach seventh grader Nick LaFrese spent Wednesday afternoon decorating a card meant not only to wish prom goers a night to remember, but also to remind them to be safe.
The cards are part of an initiative launched last year in the Westhampton Beach Union Free School District, in which elementary and middle school students decorate cards distributed to high school seniors at a mandatory pre-prom event to raise awareness of the dangers of underage drinking.
The cards, decorated with crayons and markers and designed in a “Mad Libs” style, urge high school seniors to stay safe on prom night.
“It is important we do this so kids don’t go out and get into trouble and get hurt,” LaFrese said.
The cards are an initiative supported by the Human Understanding & Growth Seminar (HUGS) in Westhampton Beach, the Westhampton Beach Coalition and the school district.
Parents and students are required to attend a pre-prom event Wednesday night during which presentations on teen drinking are given before prom tickets can be received.
The handmade letters are handed out with prom tickets for this year’s event, on Thursday at the Inn at East Winds in Wading River.
“This is a way for kids to actually put pen to paper and encourage older kids that they need them as positive role models and to stay safe,” said Westhampton Beach Coalition member Allison Galasso.
The letters, which were distributed last year for the first time, elicited “a lot of smiles,” said HUGS executive director Kym Laube.
One of the great outcomes of the “very simple” initiative is the opportunity for discussion it provides about how teens can make good decisions and enjoy celebrations while staying drug- and alcohol-free.
“They are touched that a younger student took the time out for them,” said Laube. “Many seniors hung theirs up in their bedrooms last year as a reminder to continue to make good decisions. It's rewarding to see what a difference can be made with just a simple activity.”
Westhampton Beach resident Rachel Paoletta, who graduated from high school last year, said the letter was “incredibly touching.”
Photo: Westhampton Beach seventh grader Nick LaFrese decorates a card that will be given to a high school senior as a reminder to have fun at prom, but to do so safely. (June 22, 2011)