Rosemount High School's annual Free for the Weekend event used to be about getting free stuff. Now it's more about getting involved.
RHS used to partner with local businesses for Free for the Weekend, in which the school and the businesses offer incentives for students to avoid drugs and alcohol. The students signed a pledge to stay away from illicit substances for a weekend and in turn they got deals and free items from the businesses. But Veda Kanitz, the advisor for the school's chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions, said that arrangement didn't appear to make much impact on student behavior. It's not hard to swing by McDonald's for a free Coke on the way to a party.
"I think kids just went for the pledge so they'd get their free merchandise," Kanitz said. "I don't think it changed their behavior."
Last year, the school made a change. The freebies were gone. Instead, students got free admission to Irish sporting events. The school also sponsored a ski trip. The idea, Kanitz said, was to give students things to do instead of going to a party and drinking. The school wants everyone to know there are entertaining alternatives to drinking and drug use.
This year's Free for the Weekend pledgees get free admission to an Irish hockey game Feb. 8 against Bloomington Jefferson and to a boys basketball game Feb. 9 against Lakeville South. Students will also get free shoe rental for extreme bowling from 7 p.m. to midnight Feb. 18 at City Limits Lanes. City Limits will provide free pizza and pop for students while supplies last.
"We're trying to get more meaningful activities where the kids have an alternative to going out and drinking," Kanitz said. "The freebies, everybody showed up, everybody got their free things but it didn't really make a difference," she said. "We know this is not going to change every kid, but hopefully it's setting an example.
Kanitz said its too early to know for certain whether the new approach has made a difference.
"I think there's a certain population here that's going to go out and do things that are destructive to their bodies no matter what we do but I think it sends a message, 'You can do this and still be cool,'" she said.