Teresa Flores, a Central Texas College student, checks her phone for messages while maneuvering the distracted driving simulator during Red Ribbon Week festivities Monday at the school.

Courtesy photo

Central Texas College sought to educate students, staff and the public about the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse Monday, as it kicked off National Red Ribbon Week.

Monday’s event, at the Anderson Campus Center, began a weeklong effort by the school to raise awareness about the issues surrounding drug and alcohol use through several campus events and activities.

“We want to provide students with information and resources,” said Gerald Mahone-Lewis, director of the college’s Substance Abuse Resource Center.

This year the college invited Susan Wagener, a retired drug and substance abuse counselor, to give a presentation on alcohol use and abuse. Wagener, who now works for the Family Development and Resource Management of Texas A&M University’s AgriLife Extension Service, said 18- to 25-year-olds are more educated about the dangers of drunken driving, but less educated about the dangers of binge drinking and alcohol poisoning.

“The research shows that students are doing a better job with getting designated drivers,” Wagener said. “What they aren’t doing better has to do with the amount of alcohol they are consuming.”

Wagener said that same age group isn’t drinking as often as past generations, but when they do drink, they drink in excess.

The issue is personal to Wagener, whose son Michael died of alcohol poisoning in 1999 on his 21st birthday.

“It’s not just about teaching the youth,” she said. “It’s about teaching the parents who look after those kids as well.”

The kickoff event featured representatives from the Fort Hood Army Substance Abuse Program, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Cove House and others who were on hand to provide information and educational materials.

Red Ribbon Week at CTC continues today. It will feature the college’s police officers demonstrating field sobriety tests using impairment “drunk goggles,” which simulate various levels of intoxication. Numerous displays and miniworkshops, free HIV testing and other events will be held throughout the week.

Contact Chris McGuinness at chrism@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.

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