South Valley high school students take aim at teen gambling trend

VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Rarely do high school students present their classroom projects in a news conference.

But that's precisely what happened in Visalia on Wednesday, as students from Sequoia, Hanford West, and El Diamante High Schools shared their experiences in the Betting On Our Future (or BOOF) program.

BOOF is a statewide problem gambling awareness campaign supported by the California Friday Night Live Partnership and Tulare County Office of Education and funded by the state department of public health.

"It's worth raising the awareness," said California Friday Night Live Partnership's Lynne Goodwin. "Problem gambling is a little bit trickier in that there's not a whole lot of tried and true prevention strategies. But one strategy that is applicable to both underage drinking and underage gambling is reducing the access."

Last fall, BOOF students around the state distributed a survey to their more than 900 of their peers.

Of them, 62 percent said they had gambled before, including 46 percent of 8 to 11-year-olds.

The top gambling activity was personal challenges-think the Tide Pod challenge.

"With personal challenges, whether it's for $5 or for just bragging rights, young people are learning the behavior and pattern of taking unreasonable risks for the thrill of being able to walk away and say I did it, I came close," said Hanford West High School teacher Jason Hopper.

After the survey was complete, BOOF students made public service announcements, graphics, and even social media accounts to promote awareness of problem gambling among teens and the risk of addiction later in life.

They also asked local lottery retailers to sign pledges saying they wouldn't sell tickets to underage teens.

In this, not only did they declare that they would respect the California gambling laws and the BOOF cause, but it shows that there are people out there, that through tough times, want to make the community better and want what's best for the people within it," said El Diamante High School senior Manuel Hernandez.

Organizers say the benefit of BOOF goes beyond eye-catching statistics about gambling.

By participating in the program, these students gain a variety of skills-from working as a team to speaking in front of news cameras.
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