Life-Saving Impact of Virginia College Parents

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Virginia College Parents, Inc.
City & State:
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

Chartered to educate parents about the status and safety of their children's colleges with regard to issues such as illegal and binge drinking and drug abuse and to work with members of the college community, including students, administrators, professors, police forces, and others, on educational programs to address these critically important issues.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

Virginia College Parents, Inc. (VCP) was formed in response to a recommendation of the Virginia Attorney General's Task Force on Drinking by College Students to form a statewide parents’ group concerned with the issue of alcohol and drug abuse in Virginia colleges. VCP is an all-volunteer organization, and no member-at-large, director, advisor, or officer receives any monetary compensation for their efforts. And yet their efforts are many and great.

VCP is a 501(c)(3) organization. We are an active member of the Virginia College Alcohol Leadership Council, the Washington Regional Alcohol Program, the Virginia State Organization of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the National Commission Against Drunk Driving, and Security on Campus Inc. One of our primary goals is to change the alcohol-intense culture that currently exists on campuses throughout the Commonwealth. We have concentrated our efforts on education, outreach, and activism.

Members of the VCP Board of Directors frequently speak to college parent and student audiences. These presentations, often by parents of victims, include testimony of the personal tragedies suffered by the presenter. We detail the dangers of high-risk drinking, drunk driving, and underage drinking; we discuss the physiology of alcohol consumption and its impact on neural development; we address the legal and policy implications of Virginia law. We use Microsoft (MS) XP Pro as our operating system, MS PowerPoint to prepare our slides, MS WORD to create brochures and correspondence, MS Excel to track budgets and contributions, and MS Access to manage our membership – all acquired through TechSoup.

Using the intuitive and innovative tools Microsoft provides, we have reviewed “designated driver” and “safe ride” programs currently in-being or under consideration at many schools. We strongly and repeatedly advocate against “designated driver” and “safe ride” programs for underage college students unless these programs are implemented as a safety valve within the context of a broader prevention program. We advocate that universities discourage underage and hi-risk drinking behavior, and support enforcement of laws and policies against underage and abusive drinking; we expect publicized standards, strictly enforced, for “designated drivers.” We have endorsed the Virginia College “Standards” document, and recommended amendments calling for establishment and enforcement of policies consistent with the underage drinking laws in Virginia. We used personal computers running MS XP and Vista and Internet Explorer to conduct our policy reviews. We prepared the subsequent letters, petitioning greater cooperation and support from Virginia colleges, in MS WORD, and we use MS Access to manage our data.

Analyses aided by the Microsoft suite of products clearly and concisely highlight the immediate need to focus public attention on the pass being given to 18 to 20 year old students engaged in illegal and dangerous underage drinking. We are convinced that programs that solely focus on reducing excessive drinking among students regardless of age send a mixed message on underage drinking that allows the perpetuation of an alcohol-intensive culture.

Over the years, we have engaged and challenged our legislature—it’s been a long, hard road. In 2004, letters, followed by meetings presenting indisputable evidence, enabled us to get legislation introduced in the Virginia General Assembly to make consumption of alcohol by and providing alcohol to underage persons illegal. Then current law only provided that purchase or possession by a person under 21, sale to anyone under 21, and providing alcohol to anyone under 18 were illegal acts. With the strong support of the Virginia House leadership, the House of Delegates passed our bill 99 to 0. Disappointment set in, however, when the bill was sidelined in the Senate Courts Committee. Undaunted, in 2005 we sought to have the bill re-introduced. This time the bill passed; underage consumption of alcohol and providing alcohol to underage persons in Virginia are now illegal. We also tried, unsuccessfully in 2005, to amend an exception to the underage drinking laws which allowed serving alcohol in residences to guests regardless of age. We wrote more letters, gathered more facts, and prepared more briefings—and we prevailed. In 2006, Virginia passed legislation that amended the above residence exception. As of July 1, 2006, a resident may only serve alcohol to guests under 21 when accompanied by a parent, guardian, or of-age spouse.

Over the past 2 years, VCP has played a significant role in the national “21” debate, appearing on national TV to challenge the popular, although medically and physiologically unsound and unsafe, proposal to lower the national drinking age. The VCP president will address the top leadership at a meeting with one of the largest beverage distributors in North America on June 1st. His PowerPoint presentation seeks to inform and energize these corporate executives to take a leadership role in convincing the alcohol industry to support “21.” Without the ability to prepare authoritative documents and presentations, we could not hope to succeed.

We’ve also enjoyed some smaller victories. In 2007, we received an award from the National Liquor Law Enforcement Association for our leadership in efforts to thwart underage drinking among college students in Virginia. In 2006, our continued encouragement of law enforcement agencies to increase their presence at Foxfield yielded positive results. The 2006 spring Foxfield “horse races,” attended by hoards of college students considering it a “drunkfest,” were marked by a record number of arrests: more than 100. In 2005, the number of arrests was approximately 15. We are convinced our letters and brochures are working.

Using friendly and effective office automation capabilities, our committed parent volunteers have done Herculean work. This small band of moms and dads has contacted every college and university in Virginia. They have studied the policy and administrative organizations responsible for implementing alcohol education and enforcement in each of the school communities. They have offered assistance in any way possible to encourage students to make wise decisions and to comply with safe and lawful practices regarding alcohol use. We’ve encouraged administrators to provide alternative student activities not focused on alcohol consumption. We’ve discouraged the “4th year fifth” and other dangerous tail gate traditions. We’ve encouraged legislators to fix legal loopholes. Our persistent, motivated, concerned parents have used Microsoft products to leverage limited effort with unlimited ambition to make an impact on Virginia’s young adults. Additional resources in capability and finances will allow us to do more—what if the “Impact” of an award in this contest results in one life spared, one child saved—would that be “impact” enough?

Submission Category
Optimize Mission Delivery
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