Rally will encourage parents, community to create drug-free culture for youth

Vashon’s anti-drug coalition, in an effort to take its campaign to the next level, is holding a rally on Saturday when organizers will ask parents to sign a community pledge to control underage drinking.

The Vashon Alliance to Reduce Substance Abuse (VARSA) has been working for a few years on a variety of fronts to address the cultural norms and environmental factors that can influence youth substance abuse, said Luke McQuillin, VARSA’s project coordinator. Saturday’s rally — which will be held in the parking lot north of the Farmers Market — is an effort to broaden the organization’s reach and build a movement to help the community “make those social norm changes,” he said.

“If people drive by and see 300 to 400 people, they’ll say, ‘Wow, that’s quite a movement,’” he said.

“We want people to put their hands up for youth,” he added. “It’s a show of solidarity.”

Lori Means, a parent educator at Vashon Youth & Family Services and another VARSA project coordinator, said she hopes the rally strengthens VARSA’s effort to create a new kind of culture on Vashon — one where teens realize “they have options for many different kinds of healthy activities.”

By asking parents to sign a pledge, she added, the rally is also a way to reinforce the notion that parents have a significant influence over their children’s behavior, she said.

“Parents have the most influence over their children’s attitudes, behaviors and beliefs,” she said. “That doesn’t mean they can control their kids. My goal is to help parents understand the role they can play.”

The rally will also help VARSA raise its profile in the broader community, McQuillin and Means said. The organization, initially funded by a federal grant, recently broadened its scope with a second grant from the state and is now working much more closely with the Vashon Island School District in its effort to educate parents and youth about the dangers of substance abuse.

“We need to explain to the public what we’ve been doing so far and where we’re going next,” Means said.

The pledge VARSA will issue asks parents to promise they’ll let their teens attend only  gatherings with adult supervision and designate a responsible adult to supervise their teen when they go out of town. It also asks community members to refuse to buy alcohol for people under age and support drug- and alcohol-free parties for youth.

The rally is being co-sponsored by the Vashon Island School District. Those who can’t come can visit to sign the pledge.


The rally will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Vashon Physical Therapy parking lot. It will last 30 to 40 minutes and will include performances, speeches and a resource booth.


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