Hannah Underdahl

Helping Parents Help Their Children
After an alcohol-related automobile tragedy in her community, Hannah Underdahl cofounded a branch of SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving) at her high school in Portland, Maine. Her work with SADD quickly awakened in Hannah a deeper awareness of one of her community's most pressing problems: teenage drug and alcohol abuse.

Hannah was most concerned about parents' inability to recognize their children's drug and alcohol use, as well as parents' difficulties in confronting abuse. To address the problem, she wanted to bring together parents who felt strongly about the issue, so that they could help each other ensure that the activities their children engage in are supervised by parents who share their values.

Hannah launched her action project by organizing a parents' night at her school. "The turnout was great!" she says. Building on this beginning, Hannah organized Parents Care, a group of parents devoted to helping identify and prevent teen drug and alcohol abuse.

By the end of the school year a corps of 20 volunteers and 50 parents in Hannah's school of 250 students was involved in Parents Care. Buoyed by the success of her leadership efforts, Hannah launched Just Call, a public education campaign that encourages parents to call the home of another adult at which their child is a guest.

Hannah's accomplishments did not come without struggle. She had to overcome the school board's reluctance to have a student involved in educating parents about drug and alcohol abuse, and at times she faced the disapproval of her peers. But Hannah's perseverance paid off. Her school's Parent Association is now an official sponsor of Parents Care and Just Call. More importantly, families in Hannah's community are now talking about an issue that once seemed too difficult to raise.