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Teens take aim at college partying Amherst middle schoolers try to influence their elders

  • Amherst Regional Middle School science club seventh graders Vincent Rotello and Jessica Marasco talk about the making of the club's campaign "We Live Here Too" during a visit by University of Massachusetts police officer Tom O'Donnell on Tuesday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Amherst Regional Middle School science club seventh graders Vincent Rotello and Jessica Marasco talk about the making of the club's campaign "We Live Here Too" during a visit by University of Massachusetts police officer Tom O'Donnell on Tuesday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • University of Massachusetts police officer Tom O'Donnell, right, watches a short video, part of Amherst Regional Middle School science club's project "We Live Here Too" during a visit to the club's weekly meeting on Tuesday. Joining him are eighth graders Benjamin Siege, left, and Malcolm Reyes and advisor Jennifer Welborn.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    University of Massachusetts police officer Tom O'Donnell, right, watches a short video, part of Amherst Regional Middle School science club's project "We Live Here Too" during a visit to the club's weekly meeting on Tuesday. Joining him are eighth graders Benjamin Siege, left, and Malcolm Reyes and advisor Jennifer Welborn.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • These are two of several posters created by Amherst Regional Middle School students and used by the school's science club in its campaign "We Live Here Too".<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    These are two of several posters created by Amherst Regional Middle School students and used by the school's science club in its campaign "We Live Here Too".
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Amherst Regional Middle School science club advisor Jennifer Welborn, right, listens to a presentation by the club for visiting University of Massachusetts police officer Tom O'Donnell about their project "We Live Here Too" on Tuesday. These "table tent" cards are one way the club is getting out its message about college student drinking and disruption. The illustration shows an injured child, with bicycle, saying "Hey, what about me!!" while the dispatch radio on a passing ambulance blares "There's a drunk man on campus."<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Amherst Regional Middle School science club advisor Jennifer Welborn, right, listens to a presentation by the club for visiting University of Massachusetts police officer Tom O'Donnell about their project "We Live Here Too" on Tuesday. These "table tent" cards are one way the club is getting out its message about college student drinking and disruption. The illustration shows an injured child, with bicycle, saying "Hey, what about me!!" while the dispatch radio on a passing ambulance blares "There's a drunk man on campus."
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Amherst Regional Middle School science club advisor Jennifer Welborn, right, listens to a presentation by the club for visiting University of Massachusetts police officer Tom O'Donnell about their project "We Live Here Too" on Tuesday. These "table tent" cards are one way the club is getting out its message about college student drinking and disruption.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Amherst Regional Middle School science club advisor Jennifer Welborn, right, listens to a presentation by the club for visiting University of Massachusetts police officer Tom O'Donnell about their project "We Live Here Too" on Tuesday. These "table tent" cards are one way the club is getting out its message about college student drinking and disruption.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • University of Massachusetts police officer Tom O'Donnell, left, attends a Tuesday meeting of the Amherst Regional Middle School science club with advisor Jennifer Welborn, center, to hear about the club's project on college student drinking and disruption titled "We Live Here Too". From left are seventh grader Vincent Rotello, eighth grader Marion Carr and seventh graders Jessica Marasco, Natalie Elliott and Declan Gray-Mullen.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    University of Massachusetts police officer Tom O'Donnell, left, attends a Tuesday meeting of the Amherst Regional Middle School science club with advisor Jennifer Welborn, center, to hear about the club's project on college student drinking and disruption titled "We Live Here Too". From left are seventh grader Vincent Rotello, eighth grader Marion Carr and seventh graders Jessica Marasco, Natalie Elliott and Declan Gray-Mullen.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Amherst Regional Middle School seventh grader Declan Gray-Mullen, left, talks with University of Massachusetts police officer Tom O'Donnell on Tuesday about a project done by the school's science club on college student drinking and disruption called "We Live Here Too."<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Amherst Regional Middle School seventh grader Declan Gray-Mullen, left, talks with University of Massachusetts police officer Tom O'Donnell on Tuesday about a project done by the school's science club on college student drinking and disruption called "We Live Here Too."
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • University of Massachusetts police officer Tom O'Donnell attends a weekly meeting of the Amherst Regional Middle School science club Tuesday to see a presentation by club members, including eighth grader Benjamin Siege, right, of a project on college student drinking and disruption titled "We Live Here Too".<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    University of Massachusetts police officer Tom O'Donnell attends a weekly meeting of the Amherst Regional Middle School science club Tuesday to see a presentation by club members, including eighth grader Benjamin Siege, right, of a project on college student drinking and disruption titled "We Live Here Too".
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Amherst Regional Middle School science club seventh grader Natalie Elliott talks about the making of the club's campaign "We Live Here Too" during a visit by University of Massachusetts police officer Tom O'Donnell on Tuesday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Amherst Regional Middle School science club seventh grader Natalie Elliott talks about the making of the club's campaign "We Live Here Too" during a visit by University of Massachusetts police officer Tom O'Donnell on Tuesday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>University of Massachusetts police officer Tom O'Donnell looks over an unfolded "table tent" card created by the Amherst Regional Middle School science club for their campaign "We Live Here Too." The cards were placed in a UMass dining common.<br/>

    KEVIN GUTTING
    University of Massachusetts police officer Tom O'Donnell looks over an unfolded "table tent" card created by the Amherst Regional Middle School science club for their campaign "We Live Here Too." The cards were placed in a UMass dining common.
    Purchase photo reprints »

  • Amherst Regional Middle School science club members seventh grader Vincent Rotello and eighth grader Marion Carr demonstrate a bicycle-powered project the club made for the "Destination Imagination" challenge.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Amherst Regional Middle School science club members seventh grader Vincent Rotello and eighth grader Marion Carr demonstrate a bicycle-powered project the club made for the "Destination Imagination" challenge.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Amherst Regional Middle School science club seventh graders Vincent Rotello and Jessica Marasco talk about the making of the club's campaign "We Live Here Too" during a visit by University of Massachusetts police officer Tom O'Donnell on Tuesday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • University of Massachusetts police officer Tom O'Donnell, right, watches a short video, part of Amherst Regional Middle School science club's project "We Live Here Too" during a visit to the club's weekly meeting on Tuesday. Joining him are eighth graders Benjamin Siege, left, and Malcolm Reyes and advisor Jennifer Welborn.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • These are two of several posters created by Amherst Regional Middle School students and used by the school's science club in its campaign "We Live Here Too".<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Amherst Regional Middle School science club advisor Jennifer Welborn, right, listens to a presentation by the club for visiting University of Massachusetts police officer Tom O'Donnell about their project "We Live Here Too" on Tuesday. These "table tent" cards are one way the club is getting out its message about college student drinking and disruption. The illustration shows an injured child, with bicycle, saying "Hey, what about me!!" while the dispatch radio on a passing ambulance blares "There's a drunk man on campus."<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Amherst Regional Middle School science club advisor Jennifer Welborn, right, listens to a presentation by the club for visiting University of Massachusetts police officer Tom O'Donnell about their project "We Live Here Too" on Tuesday. These "table tent" cards are one way the club is getting out its message about college student drinking and disruption.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • University of Massachusetts police officer Tom O'Donnell, left, attends a Tuesday meeting of the Amherst Regional Middle School science club with advisor Jennifer Welborn, center, to hear about the club's project on college student drinking and disruption titled "We Live Here Too". From left are seventh grader Vincent Rotello, eighth grader Marion Carr and seventh graders Jessica Marasco, Natalie Elliott and Declan Gray-Mullen.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Amherst Regional Middle School seventh grader Declan Gray-Mullen, left, talks with University of Massachusetts police officer Tom O'Donnell on Tuesday about a project done by the school's science club on college student drinking and disruption called "We Live Here Too."<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • University of Massachusetts police officer Tom O'Donnell attends a weekly meeting of the Amherst Regional Middle School science club Tuesday to see a presentation by club members, including eighth grader Benjamin Siege, right, of a project on college student drinking and disruption titled "We Live Here Too".<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Amherst Regional Middle School science club seventh grader Natalie Elliott talks about the making of the club's campaign "We Live Here Too" during a visit by University of Massachusetts police officer Tom O'Donnell on Tuesday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • KEVIN GUTTING<br/>University of Massachusetts police officer Tom O'Donnell looks over an unfolded "table tent" card created by the Amherst Regional Middle School science club for their campaign "We Live Here Too." The cards were placed in a UMass dining common.<br/>
  • Amherst Regional Middle School science club members seventh grader Vincent Rotello and eighth grader Marion Carr demonstrate a bicycle-powered project the club made for the "Destination Imagination" challenge.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

“My parents have a rule that if the noise wakes up the kids, they will call the police,” said Gray-Mullen, 13, a seventh-grader at Amherst Regional Middle School. “It has, several times.”

Seventh-grader Jessica Marasco, 12, recalls the days when she was a student at Fort River School on South East Street when custodians had to clean up discarded beer bottles from the playground before students were allowed to use it.

“Janitors had to come in and do extra work,” Marasco said.

As warm weather approaches and the effects of partying college students on neighborhoods cause increasing resentment in town, Gray-Mullen, Marasco and other members of an after-school science club at Amherst Regional Middle School have launched a project they hope will have an impact on that behavior.

Called “We Live Here Too,” it consists of a website, table placards for the UMass campus dining halls and a video.

“We are hoping to change our town and the way students act and behave,” Gray-Mullen said. “We hope to make a difference.”

Seventh-grader Natalie Elliott, who said she hasn’t personally experienced drunken college students, nevertheless said it was important to assist her classmates.

“I thought it would be cool to see what we could do to help out,” Elliott said.

Jennifer Welborn, the teacher who advises the club, said the initiative was devised solely by the students and meets the criteria of a science project because students are learning how to conduct a control experiment. They will eventually see whether they are successful in changing behavior when some of the students continue working on it next year and gather new data.

“This is real science,” Welborn said. “That’s what I love about it.”

Officials assist

During the weeks the middle schoolers have been working on the project — they estimate they’ve spent at least 50 hours on it — police and other town officials have stopped by to assist them. These include Lt. Thomas O’Donnell, a UMass police officer who leads its community outreach division; Sally Linowski, a UMass assistant dean of students; Amherst Select Board Chairwoman Stephanie O’Keeffe; and Amherst police officer Marcus Humber, the sector officer for some of the neighborhoods near UMass.

The students’ website, www.weliveheretoo.weebly.com, presents information and statistics about how excessive partying and drinking affect the town and has a pledge, linked to one created by Anheuser-Busch, asking college students to promise to be responsible when they drink.

Gray-Mullen said he would like to a get a counter on the website to see how many college students are willing to take the pledge.

The science club members solicited other middle school students to make posters about how they are affected by college students’ partying, and two were selected to be worked into table tents placed in dining commons.

One illustration depicts an Amherst Fire Department ambulance paramedic dealing with a drunken man while an injured person nearby mutters, “Hey, what about me?” The other illustration shows a bottle and asks people to drink responsibly, with the words, “One more bottle could = one more death.”

On the flip side of the table tent is information about the campaign, the website address and a QR code that provides easy access to information for those with smartphones. Collective Copies printed 200 table tents at no cost to the students.

Wake-up call?

Finally, the group made a 6-minute video intended to show the detrimental effects of drinking. The students collected newspaper clippings about the drinking problems affecting the town, and shot footage of downtown Amherst during the most recent Blarney Blowout, a downtown bar promotion that drew crowds of college-age patrons to the town center March 9.

Marasco said she was helping to sell Girl Scout cookies in front of the CVS Pharmacy that day and had a direct view of the bars. She said she saw many college-age people stumbling by, including one woman who appeared drunk by midday.

The video includes comments by O’Keeffe and Humber discussing the problems with drinking.

The middle school students themselves also appear in the film. Elliott, Marasco and Gray-Mullen are among those shown bringing the stack of table tents to the Franklin Dining Commons, where they have since been placed, as well as Berkshire Dining Commons, where the students were turned away. They plan to identify which college students dine at which commons, using the Berkshire students as the control group, and then survey students to see if the messaging has any impact on behavior.

O’Donnell said the movie may be used in conjunction with the New Student Orientation at UMass in the fall.

“I think it’s fantastic,” he said.

O’Donnell said he believes the movie may make UMass students realize that some of their actions leave an impression on teenagers in the community.

“Students are really impacted by what you, the younger people, have to say,” O’Donnell said.

He has invited the students to present the movie at the next Campus and Community Coalition to Reduce High-Risk Drinking meeting May 15.

Humber said he provided data about how drunkenness affects police responses to other emergencies.

“Many students probably don’t realize how many people live in the town, and the effects their behavior has on the community, especially the impressionable teens,” Humber said.

The club presented both the movie, which was shortened to meet eligibility, and a skit on wind energy at Destination ImagiNation in Uxbridge last month. For the wind project, some of the students used a stationary bike to generate wind and create kinetic art.

Other students in the after-school science club include Benjamin Siege, Vincent Rotello, Nya Sanders, Alberto Fernandez-Morales, Aidan Klotz, Marion Carr and Nathan Li.

Though Siege worked only on the wind project, he said all members of the club appreciate the problems disruptive college students create in the community.

“We’re all affected by college students,” Siege said. “It affects our community as a whole.”

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