EAST MANATEE -- In an effort to keep young students alive, Ginger Brengle didn't sugarcoat the facts Tuesday.
Youngsters who drink underage can't physically handle alcohol as can those with fully developed brains. With an alarming trend in binge drinking trickling down to young children, underage drinking can easily turn into fatalities, said Brengle, an educator with Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
"By the time you feel it, you've already had too much," Brengle said. "The problem with brain damage is we don't feel it."
As part of Red Ribbon Week, Brengle spoke to students at Haile Middle School about the dangers and effects of underage drinking. Hoping to dispel myths, Brengle's presentation reached about 700 of the approximately 1,000 students at the school.
Assistant Principal Robert Sloman said he would consider it a success if the presentation keeps at least one student from underage drinking.
The presentation was a scaled-down version of one Brengle presents to high school students since middle school students don't drive. The time to start educating students, however, is skewing younger, she said.
"If you wait until they're older, it could be too late," she said.
The presentation given during physical education classes included graphs, statistics and multiple-choice questions. Students looked at scans to show how the brain isn't fully developed until the mid-20s.
"It's not picking on you, it's just biology," she said.
Sloman said he appreciates the nature of Brengle's presentation.
"It's not just don't do it. It's why," he said.
Red Ribbon Week 2015, which runs through Nov. 5, was established in 1985 by the National Family Partnership in honor of former drug enforcement agent Enrique (Kiki) Camarena who was tortured and killed in Mexico in 1985 while tracking down a drug cartel.
The Manatee County School Board signed a Red Ribbon Week proclamation at its Oct. 13 meeting.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter@MeghinDelaney.