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Oxford teen earns top honors in essay contest on dangers of alcohol

Oxford teen JaiLiaunna Brooks was recently honored by law enforcement and city of Oxford dignitaries after she won the “Give Yourself a Chance” essay contest sponsored by HEARTS for Families, Snellville and the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. Pictured are, from left, Oxford Mayor Jerry Roseberry, Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown, Brooks, Brooks’ father Carlas Manning and Oxford Chief of Police David Harvey. (Special Photo)

Oxford teen JaiLiaunna Brooks was recently honored by law enforcement and city of Oxford dignitaries after she won the “Give Yourself a Chance” essay contest sponsored by HEARTS for Families, Snellville and the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. Pictured are, from left, Oxford Mayor Jerry Roseberry, Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown, Brooks, Brooks’ father Carlas Manning and Oxford Chief of Police David Harvey. (Special Photo)

COVINGTON — Oxford teen JaiLiaunna Brooks recently earned top honors in a statewide essay contest. The contest was sponsored by HEARTS for Families, Snellville and the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.

Brooks wrote on the subject of the dangers of alcohol to teens, describing how she was giving herself a chance to reach her life goals by not drinking.

According to HEARTS for Families, alcohol has been found to be the drug of choice among Georgia’s youth. Twenty-three percent of youth statewide consume alcohol before the age of 13 — and nearly a quarter of high school students admitted to riding in a car with someone who had been drinking.

Other statistics concerning teenage drinking include:

• Underage drinking is a factor in nearly half of all teen automobile crashes and contributes significantly to suicides, homicides and fatal injuries. In fact, more teens die as a result of alcohol use than all other illegal drugs combined.

• Alcohol abuse is linked to as many as two-thirds of all sexual assaults and date rapes of teens and college students.

• Alcohol is a major factor in unprotected sex among youth, increasing their risk of contracting HIV or other sexually transmitted disease.

• There are approximately 1.5 billion episodes of binge drinking among persons 18 years or older in the U.S. each year.

There are also mental and physical consequences. If you start drinking before 21, you are seven times more likely to develop an alcohol problem than if you wait. In addition, the brain continues to develop into the mid-20s, so alcohol abuse at a young age could lead to brain damage, memory problems and harm to other major organs.

Brooks’ essay approached the subject from the view that alcoholism would diminish her chances of success in life.

“Alcoholics are classified as many things and all of them are negative,” she wrote. “Who wants to be associated with something that is deemed as negative. I sure don’t. Every 53 minutes, someone is killed by drunk driving. Every 90 seconds someone is severely injured by drunk driving. In 2011 alone, 9,878 people were killed by a drunk driver. I don’t want to be connected to these types of things because I chose to drink and make the wrong decision.

“My actions speak louder than my words and, therefore, I chose to not let alcohol kill my dreams. I don’t want to be sent to rehab or have to take classes for my problem. I want to be a person that means something in the world. …”

As a regional winner, Brooks received a certificate and a ticket to World of Coke. She then went on to compete with other regional winners across the state and won an iPod Nano and a certificate.