As Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe enlisted members of the Topsham area community to stop underage drinking, he also called on an unusual group to join his fight?Bowdoin students.
"The students at Bowdoin could serve as mentors for kids in middle school and high school," Rowe said in an interview with the Orient. He noted that adolescent boys especially need college-age men to be role models.
The interview followed the first of 23 summits focused on underage drinking in Maine. The summit took place at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham on Tuesday evening.
In addition to the attorney general, who was the event's keynote speaker, the attendees were mostly parents, a handful of high school students, and a few police officers.
"We may not have a lot of polish, but we have a lot of passion," Rowe said in his speech in reference to the fact that the meeting was the first in the series.
In his speech, Rowe introduced a theme that would be repeated throughout the evening?a collaborative community effort to reduce underage drinking.
"Underage drinking is not a young person's problem," Rowe said. "It is the community's problem."
Following Rowe's address, former First Lady of Maine Mary Herman spoke about parenting. Later, there was a panel discussion featuring the Superintendent of MSAD75, Executive Director of Sexual Assault Support Services, Bath Police Chief, Emergency Room Medical Director of Mid Coast Hospital, and Sagadahoc County District Attorney. Each member of the panel had a unique perspective on underage drinking.
"The hardest thing for me to do is tell a parent that [her] child has just died from an alcohol related incident," Emergency Room Medical Director Dr. Steven Fisher said.
Panel member Susan Hall Dreher added, "[Underage drinking] is a multi-faceted issue that needs a multi-layered response."
A short question-and-comment period followed the panel discussion to wrap up the program. A few members of the audience shared their concerns and expressed their commitments to overcoming the problem at hand. One woman pointed out that the community has "a resource here at Bowdoin College."
Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) President DeRay McKesson, who attended the meeting, also believes Bowdoin could play a role in this community effort. McKesson thinks that the meeting was well-intended but that the underage students themselves need to take a bigger part in resolving the problem.
"This is their issue," McKessson said.
According to McKesson, BSG has plans to contact high schools in the area and have conversations with their student governments. He believes that Bowdoin students could be "really instrumental" in tackling the issue.
In addition to diminishing underage drinking in the larger community, Rowe said that underage drinking on college campuses should also cause concern. He thinks it is important for college students to remember that their brains are still developing until about age 20.
"Damage to the brain caused by alcohol is a problem even for college students," he said.
A follow-up meeting to begin forming concrete solutions will be held on March 16 at Mid Coast Hospital.