Teen-led coalition targets underage drinking in Norwalk

NORWALK – Local Norwalk students have recently come together and teamed up with experts from Helpline Youth Counseling to form the Norwalk City United coalition in an attempt to curb youth and young adult substance abuse in the community.

The new coalition has specifically targeted alcohol, which has proven to be easier to access by underage individuals. 

“We surveyed high schoolers and we asked them how easy it is for them to get alcohol from the retailers, and they said very easy,” said Maurina Cintron, a prevention specialist at Helpline Youth Counseling (HYC).

“What this coalition is supposed to do is supposed to kind of help the city reduce underage drinking,” said Joel Reynoza, another prevention specialist at HYC. “This is a coalition we’ve been working on for the past two and a half to three years.” 

This particular coalition has already gone through many changes, especially in regards to who was involved. In the end, the deciding factor on which direction to go came with the realization of who would have the strongest voice. 

“Before it started out as a coalition that was mainly just professionals,” said Reynoza. “With a coalition of just professionals, I mean you can get a lot of people through there, but it’s not really the community who’s actually taking part, and that’s what we want. We want the community to take charge and be the people who want to reduce underage drinking by doing whatever they feel, by either taking part in the Norwalk parade or taking part in community or school activities, passing out flyers; whatever they feel they need to do to improve their city, that’s what we want them to do and we want to be the support role for that.”

Local students have gotten involved with the help of a few teachers and school staff, who have recruited from within the schools. Volunteer hours for school credit and resumes are also offered.

The coalition has meetings quarterly at the Norwalk Church of the Nazarene, and has already gone out into the local community to work with local businesses who sell alcohol, including liquor stores and big name grocery stores. All this legwork is a part of the ultimate goal, known as the “eight step framework.” 

“The coalition is a great help, but our focus is called an eight step framework. It’s eight steps to partner with the retailers in the city of Norwalk to reduce the access of alcohol through the retailers,” said Cintron. “Each step, you have a certain activity…that’s when our coalition steps in and does these steps with us.”

During the two years working with local businesses, the coalition has already worked with just under 60 stores.

The next quarterly meeting will take place sometime in September. At this time, Norwalk City United does not have any internet or social media presence set up, however those interested in more information can be put into contact through various local city entities, such as the Chamber of Commerce, Public Safety, the Cerritos Patch, and the Norwalk Patriot.