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Lieutenant Governor spreads message about underage drinking

Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona Jr. visited fourth, fifth and sixth-graders at Hanalei School yesterday to educate students on underage drinking in a brief session titled “Too Smart to Start.”

“Does anyone know why we have rules?” Aiona asked the students.

The students, as if rehearsed, all shouted out the right answer.

“That’s right,” he said. “If we didn’t have any rules, it would be chaos.”

With that, the former family court judge segued into the rules that pertain to drinking.

To get things started, Aiona encouraged audience participation by asking true-or-false questions. Those who gave the correct answers got an eraser shaped like a brain for a prize.

“You’ve got to be able to catch because I’m going to toss you your prize,” he said.

In the session, Aiona showed the effects of alcohol on the brain and other organs and what the consequences are for those who drink while underage.

“So what’s the lesson today?” he said. “The lesson is, ‘You can’t drink if you’re underage.’”

Students took a quiz and those who answered all the questions correctly got to vie for a special Lieutenant Governor’s medal.

Underage drinking was a plank in Aiona’s campaign platform four years ago.

Once elected, he started visiting schools to talk about underage drinking.

Sessions usually occur during Alcohol Awareness Week in April, but to spread the word, Aiona decided he would extend them a bit longer.

Since then, he’s enlisted local celebrities, such as university athletic coaches and local leaders, throughout the state to visit schools.

“This year, so far we’ve visited 38 schools,” he said. “By the end of the year, we’ll end up visiting 58.”

From here, Aiona goes back to visit two schools on O‘ahu.

“I have a vision,” he said. “My vision is to bring prevalent use (of alcohol) down, way below 10 percent.”

Tuesday’s talk was Aiona’s first appearance at a Kaua‘i school.

Hanalei School principal Nathan Aiwohi said he was thrilled by the visit.

“They sent a letter out to the schools and we responded early enough to be lucky to have him,” he said.

Although Aiwohi said there isn’t a problem with underage drinking among his students, any positive influence from the community and the leaders helps with prevention.

“In any community, we do have those concerns about risk factors like smoking and drinking,” Aiwohi said. “We just want to educate and prevent them from doing these things. It kind of gives them the information they need as they move on to their middle school years.”

“Too Smart to Start” is a part of the “Reach Out Now National Teach-In” initiative to prevent underage drinking. The sessions are conducted across the nation to fifth and sixth-graders, but Aiwohi opened it up for the fourth-graders as well.

The national teach-ins are conducted as a part of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Aiona also passed out drug-free Hawai‘i fliers for parents, which are also available at www.drug-free-kids.org.

“I know we can do it,” Aiona said. “I know we can make a difference.”

• Lanaly Cabalo, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or lcabalo@kauaipubco.com.

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