Students Lead by Example to Keep Safe on Prom Night4 min read

Fifteen years ago, John Brandt, English department chair and teacher at Lutheran High North, of Macomb, Mich. developed a student-driven group called Example. This group is based on the principle that there are plenty of God-pleasing alternatives to drug-use and alcohol. Brandt says, “I wanted to make sure students understood that alcohol and drugs are not an inevitable part of the high school experience.”

One of the group’s monthly activities

Example meets monthly for an activity. After the group of 60 or so students gets together for games and fun, they listen to a guest speaker on a specific focus. Some guest speakers have talked about their experiences going through alcohol recovery. “We don’t try to scare students” says Brandt, “we want them to hear from young men and women that have made decisions that compromised their values, dishonored their families, and placed their lives in danger.”

This past weekend was my alma mater’s prom. It was thrilling to see everyone’s pre-prom pictures on social media, and to remember the days when I was the subject of those pictures. I didn’t ever feel a strong urge, nor did I feel pressured into drinking or drugs. I had a solid, virtuous group of friends. But, even the brightest and best students are subject to temptation.

According to the CDC, 35% of high school students drank some amount of alcohol within a 30-day span in 2013. The SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) noted that approximately 72% of teens have drank alcohol by the time they graduate; and 90% of teens, as reported by, believe their peers are more likely to drink on prom night.

Here are a few thoughts on how to change these statistics:

  • As an adult or peer, the best thing we can do is lead by example. Brandt says, “There are ways to enjoy high school and encourage each other in ways that do not involve decisions that are harmful to the earthly life God has given to us.”
  • Have teens commit. For this year’s prom, John Brandt passed out contracts to the students. The signed contracts stated that that student would not drink after prom. Nearly 40 students signed a contract the first day of prom week. “Not only does it make us accountable for our actions, but it also encourages others to follow the Example that is set simply by our signatures. What a great way for us to witness to our classmates!” said student Kayla on the group’s blog.
  • Remind teens of the immediate and long-term consequences of drinking and drugs.
  • Do not support alcohol and drugs. 21.4% of teens obtain alcohol from a relative, according to com. Instead of serving beer at a pre- or post-prom party, serve Coca-Cola in glass bottles or non-alcoholic mixed drinks for something a little fancier. You don’t have to have a formal chat with a teen, which is often uncomfortable for both parties, but let them know you are willing to be there when they need you, and regardless of beliefs, underage drinking is illegal.

“Students need encouragement. Students need guidance. Students need answers,” says Brandt, “Students need to know that high school has its own pressures and struggles – drugs and alcohol don’t have to be part of them. Students also need to know that, despite their sins and destructive decisions, they are washed clean in the blood of Christ.”

I do what I can to make sure my little brother gets it under his thick curls that there’s no need to do any drugs or alcohol to make prom a fun night. Like most teenagers, my brother is a very smart boy, but there are times when he is willing to sacrifice his best behavior to fit in with the crowd and look cool in front of his peers. I know that, regardless of what I said, it is his choice whether he drinks, or smokes, or does anything at all. But I can be a role model.

Example’s theme verse, 1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.”

John Brandt says, “Our goal is not to be Examples in speech and action in order to win God’s favor. That is a futile task that only leads to futility and hopelessness. Rather, we have an opportunity to be Examples in response to the righteousness that is ours through Christ’s atoning sacrifice.”

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