BOUNTIFUL -- Congressman Chris Stewart, R-Utah, knows from experience that kids and alcohol don't mix.
Stewart, a first-term U.S. representative, used a brief appearance at South Davis Junior High School on Tuesday to share a tale about a friend whose life was cut short because of alcohol. His appearance was used to launch a new program called "Ask, Listen, Learn: Kids and Alcohol Don't Mix," which stresses the values of physical activity, while addressing the problem of underage drinking.
The program is an initiative of the Century Council, an Arlington,Va.-based national, independent, not-for-profit organization founded in 1991 and funded by distillers. According to the Century Council website, an independent National Advisory Board composed of leaders in education, medicine, government, business and other relevant disciplines assists in the development of the Council's programs and policies.
Stewart shared the tale of a childhood friend who took his first drink while in the seventh grade and by the time they were in juniors in high school had a problem significant enough that he had built a mini bar in the back of his car.
The congressman said his friend was bright and earned a degree in engineering, with a job building aircraft in the East, when his alcohol problem caught up with him. He died at the age of 38.
"He had four little kids, a great career and lost it all because when he was in seventh grade someone offered him a drink and he said it sounds like fun," Stewart said. "The first time someone offers you a drink, say, 'No, thanks, I'm not going to do that.' Frankly I hope you never drink. It's not healthy for you."
Besides his talk, the program included an interactive workout video that several students used to model the new program.
After running in place and avoiding obstacles on the screen as part of the process, the students reach the finish line and are asked questions, some relating to the impact of alcohol on the human body and others focused on other health issues.
The game enables youths to learn about the negative consequences of underage drinking and the benefits of making healthy decisions, said Riley Smith of the Century Council. She said the game will be donated to the school, so other students can use it to work out and learn.
SDJHS Principal Jeff Jorgensen said it was exciting to have Stewart visit and to see the new program.
"It's great that it can get students up and exercising while learning about healthy lifestyle choices in all realms of life," he said.
In introducing the program, Smith urged students to reach out to parents, mentors, coaches and friends to deal with the peer pressure of being asked to drink.
Ralph Blackman, CEO of the Century Council, said 11 percent of eighth-graders report they have consumed alcohol in the past month.