LEHI — He may only be in seventh grade, but Aiden Steele already understands the risks of underage drinking.
"I've been thinking about it before, and I'm like, um, I don't really want to drink anything. I don't really want to even try it," he explained.
He's not the only kid in Lehi who has made that decision.
On Thursday, students at Willow Creek Middle School dipped their hands in colorful paint and marked a giant brain sculpture to represent their promises to abstain from underage drinking as part of an event sponsored by Parents Empowered, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other organizations.
"(Alcohol) messes with our brains, you know, and we need to stay healthy and be able to be our best selves. If you're under the influence of alcohol, then you're not being your best self," said ninth-grader Téa Randall.
"You shouldn't really be doing drugs. And alcohol, it could kill you if you drink it too early. ... I don't really want that in my life," he said.
The sculpture is one measure Lehi officials are taking to prevent underage drinking in their community.
After the students made their promises via handprint, Utah's first lady Jeanette Herbert and other city and state officials addressed a small gathering of students and media with the goal of encouraging parents to educate their children about the dangers of alcohol.
"As parents, we all want the very best for our children. ... When children become involved in underage drinking, though, parents often see their children's dreams for the future crumble right before their eyes," Herbert said.
A statewide survey has shown that since the beginning of Parents Empowered, a statewide education campaign, the underage drinking rates in Utah have "steadily decreased," she said.
However, as the Beehive State grows in population, there is a "significant flow of new adolescents and new parents joining Utah's communities," Herbert added. And with new families coming into the state comes the continued need to educate parents about underage drinking, she said.
"It may not seem like it at times, but we believe that our parents are the No. 1 influence in our lives. Parents trump peer pressure," Téa said.1 comment on this story
The ninth-grader said she was "very proud" that she took the pledge to abstain from underage drinking.
"It's cool to see everybody come together and do this. We're all being united in this, and we'll be able to remind each other," she said.
Willow Creek Middle School has also installed traffic signs at drop-off and pickup zones to remind parents of their role in helping their children avoid alcohol.
To learn ways to educate your kids about the dangers of underage drinking, visit parentsempowered.org.