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Style Magazine

Risky Business

Feb 01, 2010 10:03AM ● By Wendy Sipple

Photo courtesy of P.A.R.T.Y./Folsom Chapter.

Youth is a great deceiver; an unending well of invincibility for young people who envision a future filled with nothing but time.

But, injuries among adolescents and teenagers resulting from high-risk behaviors is a stark reminder that passion has a price. Oftentimes, it is entirely too high to bear.

Bringing awareness to the rise of high-risk injuries among area youth is the Folsom affiliate of the national nonprofit, P.A.R.T.Y., which stands for Prevent Alcohol and Risk-Related Trauma in Youth. The primary mission of this local chapter – the first-ever in California and the third in the nation – according to CEO, Johanna M. Cunningham, is: “To promote injury prevention through reality education, enabling youth to recognize risk and make informed choices about activities and behaviors.”

Putting this goal into practice is incredibly challenging for many reasons, not the least of which is that, for youth, short-term thrills are far more luring than long-term consequences such as brain and spinal cord injuries, as well as other preventable traumas. Mix in sideline realities such as peer pressure, slick marketing campaigns and irresponsible role modeling, and youth are faced with several factors that threaten to impair their judgment beyond alcohol and drugs.

Keeping this in mind, the P.A.R.T.Y. program is composed of highly affective activities designed to dispel well-entrenched myths about adolescent and teenage invincibility. “We are blessed to have the support of the Folsom Police and Fire Departments, Mercy Hospital, and Fast Response Towing,” Cunningham says. “With their help, the program follows the path of an injury survivor, with every student participating in a four-hour session, which consists of a visit to the emergency room, talking to an ER doctor, listening to the experiences of trauma survivors, and asking questions.”

Through the program, students are also exposed to the consequences of any risk-related activity, including alcohol, prescription and street drugs, snowboarding and street racing. Attaching an emotional, real-life response to a preventable action – a discussion of the recent crash that took the life of a Folsom High School student, for example – makes more of an impact on lecture-adverse youth. As well, students engage in activities while experiencing a simulated brain-injury in order to see the effects. Kathi Sturgeon, who was injured in a bicycle crash in El Dorado Hills in 2008, helps facilitate this station, while five other speakers, including a keynote speaker from MADD (who, while driving drunk, killed his best friend), make up the Folsom P.A.R.T.Y. team.

Responses from a Post Student Survey reflect the effectiveness of this 21st century experience for the children of the “Scared Straight” generation: “I realize now, we are definitely not invincible,” and “I would never want to put my mom through that kind of pain.”

P.A.R.T.Y. meets with 60 students from Folsom and Oakridge High School at the Mercy Folsom Hospital Medical Building and Mercy Hospital the first Friday of every month. To learn more, call P.A.R.T.Y. Program Director Vicky Fitzgerald at 916-792-4890, Johanna Cunningham at 916-798-4297; visit the program online at, and watch videos at