Teenagers are getting prom safety tips – from 2nd and 3rd graders

In one Minnesota town, little kids are reminding big kids to be safe on prom night.
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Bring a first aid kit in case you break a bone while dancing. Look both ways on roads. Watch out for dangerous situations and have fun at prom.

Those are some of the words of wisdom imparted to teenagers heading to the Austin High School prom Saturday night, courtesy of some of the second and third graders in town.

In their letters, the little kids encourage the big kids to be safe before, during, and after the prom, adding "You might not realize this, but you are a role modelto me and my classmates!"

OK, that part was written by the Austin Positive Action Coalition, which came up with the idea and helped the kids at Banfield and Neveln Elementary schools get started with their letters. An example of one finished product is below. See others here.

Taking a positive approach to safety reminders

Why are prom safety tips coming from 7 and 8-year-old children whose concept of a prom might still be pretty vague?

One reason is that role model thing. Maria Michelson, who teaches second graders, tells ABC 6 News her students like to make connections with older kids.

"Teens may not realize how much younger students look up to them, these letters will serve as a good opportunity to remind them to make good choices," Mickelson said.

Also, affectionate messages from little kids are a positive way to encourage safety. Trying to scare teenagers into safety by showing them gory crashes from prom-nights-gone-wrong might have been one approach.

But Austin decided to try something different. The coalition behind the letters says the idea was to have elementary students tell prom-goers "how they are important and why they should stay safe during their fun-filled evening."

Part of a larger campaign

The coordinator of the Austin Positive Action Coalition explains in a blog post that the group formed after a statewide survey a few years ago showed Austin's high school students had a higher than average rate of alcohol use.

Austin adults concerned about the issue came together and won a five-year grant from the state's Department of Human Services, which has an Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division.

The prom safety effort is just one of the projects organized by Austin's coalition, which is using a framework known as Positive Community Norms.

Coordinator Bill Spitzer says the goal is to highlight the positive. And as for prom night, “The message is simple: have fun, but make smart and safe choices,” he says.

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