Lakewood Ranch Herald

Bradenton teens winners in video contest sponsored by MADD and State Farm

BRADENTON -- In his music video, Christian Alvarez is not afraid to take away a beer bottle from his friend's hand and spill the contents on the ground.

"Make good choices and help your friends do the same," he raps. "I got the power to stop underage drinking ..."

Alvarez, of Southeast High School in Bradenton, was named the grand prize winner in a national video contest sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving and State Farm for his creative video to help prevent underage drinking.

"The main thing is to say no," Alvarez said in aphone interview Fridaywith the Herald. "Yourlife is on the line, even by taking just one sip."

He says he hopes teens will learn that alcohol can cause liver damage and that "everyone has the power" to stop underage drinking.

His video starts outside a convenience store and transitions to the store's check-out counter where a teenager tries to buy beer.

Two law enforcement officers are also part of the video and are shown talking to the teenagers.

"Law enforcement, use your power to take a stand," the 16-year-old continues singing.

Nikelle Kelly, 17, a Lakewood Ranch High School student, was another video contest winner and will join Alvarez in MADD's first-ever Power of You(th) National Teen Influencer Group.

"Underage drinking is a serious issue nationwide, it's an epidemic," said Jan Withers, MADD's national president. "We are very concerned about the safety of our youth ... what always excites me is to watch the creativity of our young people and pair that along with a powerful message."

It's common for teenagers to start drinking at age 14, Withers said.

One out of five teenagers binge drinks, she said, and one out of three eighth-graders has tried alcohol.

Withers calls the statistics "absolutely frightening."

"We recognized that teens talking to other teens has more impact than anything else," said Michal Connolly, State Farm spokeswoman in Florida. "It's a form of positive peer pressure."

About 6,000 people die each year from teenage alcohol use -- surpassing deaths from illegal drugs use, according to Withers.

The Bradenton teenagers will travel to Dallas in June for a national summit, where they'll discuss ways to make a difference in their communities by taking a stand against underage drinking.

A third Florida teen, Austin Baltierra, 18, of North Port, was also a winner and will join the delegation of teens this summer.

As the grand prize winner, Alvarez will be recognized at the MADD's national conference in September in Washington, D.C.

"You got so much to gain and too much to lose," sings Kelly in her video as one of her friends seemingly drinks from a beer bottle. "So just choose and refuse to use the booze ... a real friend won't stand back and watch her girlfriend binge drink and take shots."

Miriam Valverde, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow on Twitter @MiriamValverde.

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