Monday, April 19, 2004

Students mixed over parties


'Lots of drinking' follows proms

By Karen Gutierrez
The Cincinnati Enquirer

At about this time every year, parents at Ryle High School throw a $10,000 party, complete with laser tag, big-screen movies, carriage rides, video games and prizes worth thousands of dollars.

And every year, more than half the students who attend Ryle's prom choose to do something else afterwards.

Too often, that "something else" involves alcohol consumption, says Lisa Ferguson, one of 80 or so volunteers behind Ryle's booze-free party. It takes place from midnight to 5 a.m. Saturday, immediately after Ryle's prom.

The home parties - which may be sanctioned by parents - involve "lots of drinking and taking the keys and saying, 'Oh, well, it's OK as long as I don't let them drive,'" says Ferguson, whose son is a senior at Ryle. "The kids all know. They know whose house they're going to get away with what at."

The temptation to drink is present for teenagers at any school at any time. But it's especially acute in April, when winter gives way to proms, senior dinners, award banquets and graduation.

After-prom parties developed as a way to keep teenagers safe in the wee hours. The idea is to offer so much fun that they can't resist attending.

Around Greater Cincinnati, a handful of suburban schools have had great success. This month, Sycamore High School will spend about $33,000 on a party expected to draw 1,000 teens.

But at other schools, the concept has fizzled.

Boone County High School gave up its after-prom party about three years ago. At most, 132 students attended, less than 25 percent of prom-goers.

Some say they simply don't want to spend "the best night of their lives" hanging out with adults until morning. Others say alcohol is part of celebration for some students.

"All the other parents were having parties where people were drinking, so nobody went to our after-proms," says Kelly Gripshover, a senior at Boone County High. "It's disappointing for all the people who don't want to drink. They have no place to go."

In nearby Hebron, Conner High School also has battled student disinterest.

This month, the school planned to offer its first after-prom in about five years, but it was canceled when too few students signed up. School officials say the prom's overlap with Easter weekend was a major factor.

In addition, "I didn't like the fact that they locked you in until 5:30 a.m.," junior Teresa Hille said. "What if you weren't having fun and wanted to leave?"

She doesn't drink, she said, and the party did sound appealing, especially the giant Twister game. But the restrictions were a turnoff, she said.

"It's really not that bad," says senior Bosco Clements, whose dad is a volunteer. "There's so much there for you to do."

About 350 students - 45 percent of prom-goers - typically go to the party, which will feature casino games, rock-wall climbing, batting cages, a U.S. Marines obstacle course, a giant slide, a caricature artist and more.

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E-mail kgutierrez@enquirer.com




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