RYC Preventing Youth Substance Use
The Riverhead Youth Coalition (RYC) is preventing youth substance use through new partnerships and projects. RYC is a group of Riverhead students in grades 7-12 who develop and implement community initiatives that prevent and reduce youth substance use. The group represents the youth sector of the Riverhead Community Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Youth.
Beach Cleanups and Environmental Scans
RYC collects data through environmental scans. The goal of these scans is to identify community conditions that contribute to youth substance use. During International Coastal Cleanup month, students conducted beach cleanups at Reeves and South Jamesport beaches. They collected about 60 pounds of garbage. They also observed that regulations prohibiting alcohol use at local beaches were being ignored.
“I was a part of the beach cleanup at South Jamesport Beach,” said Isaac Lopez Amaya, age 17. “We found beer bottles and vape pods. But the thing we saw the most were [punctured] Twisted Tea cans. They’re being “shotgunned” [a type of binge drinking] and are mainly used by teenagers. It shouldn’t be that easy for underage people to purchase alcohol or any drug for that matter, because they aren’t aware of the consequences and how it can affect their brains and bodies.”
Expanding Sticker Shock
RYC expanded its Sticker Shock campaign to include partnerships with businesses who also support underage drinking prevention. Adults who provide or knowingly allow underage drinking or drug use can be charged with a misdemeanor under the Suffolk County Social Host Law. Penalties include a $1000 fine and/or one year in jail.
With the assistance of Riverhead Police Department, RYC conducted Sticker Shock at multiple locations in October. Wading River Pizza and Pazzo Ristorante, and Cucina 25 are the latest restaurants to participate. RYC members placed brightly colored stickers on pizza boxes warning customers about the penalties for providing alcohol to minors. Wading River Beverage joined Riverhead Beverage, a longtime participant in Sticker Shock, allowing the students to place stickers on multipacks of beer and coolers at their respective stores.
Riverhead Coalition Coordinator, Isabella Marcucci shared, “Businesses that support initiatives to prevent and reduce underage drinking demonstrate a sincere commitment to keeping our youth and communities healthy and safe.”
Preventing Rx Misuse
In observation of Medicine Abuse Awareness Month, RYC helped Riverhead Police Department collect unused, unwanted, and expired medication at the Town of Riverhead’s Stop Throwing Away Pollutants (S.T.O.P.) Day in October. Community members collectively disposed of 157 pounds of medication.
“I like that I’m helping my community by bringing awareness on how to safely dispose of unwanted and unused medications, and knowing also that it helps to keep these medications away from children,” said Annabelle Dunn, age 16.
The coalition has collected and safely disposed of over 12,000 pounds of medication since 2024.
Public Service Announcements
Additionally, RYC raises awareness by writing and recording radio PSAs. Their medicine safety PSA aired on 101.7 The Beach radio in late October and November. RYC’s annual PSA focusing on preventing impaired and drunk driving will air during the 2023 holiday season in late December in observance of National Impaired Driving Prevention Month.
Riverhead High School and Middle School students can still apply to the RYC program by contacting Cynthia Redmond at Cynthia.Redmond@RiverheadCAP.org.