National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week kicked off Oct.19 at The University of Texas-Pan American with the first of three days of events sponsored by the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program (ADAP) and the Office of Student Life and Transition Services.
Miguel Lopez, coordinator of UTPA's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program, said the events are designed to provide awareness and education to young people, particularly University students, about alcohol use and its effects.
"We find students don't know the facts about alcohol. They think because it is legal it is OK but too much alcohol can shut down your system. If they are going to drink, we want them to do it responsibly," he said.
The week of events started with a series of contest booths scattered across the University quad. One contest called the "Best Virgin in Town" promoted non-alcoholic versions of popular cocktails, for example preparing a "Virgin Mary" instead of "Bloody Mary." Preparing the drinks for students were members of the UTPA Greek Council. Another booth, allowing students to "chug" root beer instead of beer, attracted Jesse Moreno, a junior from Weslaco majoring in criminal justice, who downed four cups in the fastest time. When asked if he'd do the same with an alcoholic drink he said no.
"I am past the time when chugging down beers is OK. I don't participate in binge drinking," he said.
The "Experience the Buzz" booth allowed students to slip on goggles that simulate drunkenness, in visual perception only, and set them on a driving course with a golf cart accompanied by UTPA Police Officer Roy Arce. The activity gave the students the opportunity to see how many traffic cones, representing objects such as telephone poles, trees or people, they would hit or run over.
At the same booth, students also underwent walk-and-turn field sobriety tests while wearing the goggles under the supervision of Delma Lopez, also an officer with the UTPA Police Department. Assisting in the booth were members of the Bacchus and Gamma Peer Education Network.
"Hidalgo County is number one in the state in the number of DWI accidents," he said.
After hitting three cones while on the "Drunk Driving Simulation Course," Sergio Alanis, a junior from Mission majoring in criminal justice, said the experience was enlightening.
"I never tried this before. After this I wouldn't think about it (drinking and driving) twice. Just imagine if I hit a little kid or someone in the way, it would ruin my life. It made me really think about it," he said.
On Wednesday, Oct. 20, students will be able to attend an information scavenger hunt during a fair from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. in the Student Union Commons, where different student and community organizations will provide alcohol abuse related information. By participating, students will have an opportunity to win a prize.
The "Drunk Driving Simulation Course" will be set up again on Thursday, Oct. 21 from 11:30 p.m.-1 p.m. at the Quad as well as salsa dance lessons and a self defense seminar. Some dancers will be able to wear the simulator goggles giving them a feel of how they perform and appear on a dance floor while drunk.
For more information or special accommodations, contact the ADAP office at 381-2659.