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Lessons From a Teen-Ager's Death

December 15, 1985

I read with great sadness "Life and Death of a Drinking Teen-Ager," the account of the life and tragic death of 18-year-old Mario Navarrete (by Tia Gindick, Dec. 1). Mario's family suspects that he died from a combination of drugs and alcohol.

Mario's death while still in his teens is grim and heartbreaking, yet maybe we can gain something for other troubled youth from his unfortunate end. Mario was a sensitive teen-ager searching for answers. He lacked structure and identification with peers, yet he had a strong will to survive. How many thousands of other teens does this description fit?

Mario had attended two Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, but apparently this brief exposure was not enough. In Mario's memory, I would like to see established on school campuses (elementary, junior high and high schools) meetings that follow the course of AA, Overeaters Anonymous, Emotional Health Anonymous, etc. These meetings serve a myriad of purposes, but if nothing else they allow the youngsters to see firsthand that they are not alone in their feelings, their joys, pains, heartbreaks. These troubled teen-agers would see that other teens have walked in their shoes and have survived.

As is said in AA, these teens would have a chance to share their experience, strength and hope and would have the "operating instructions" that the group or the other youngsters who have been successful can offer.

I propose that such a program be built into the curriculum and that the class be mandatory and made part of a drug awareness campaign in every school in memory of Mario.

As an assistant principal of a school for seriously troubled youth, I see daily how desperately we need such a program.


Van Nuys

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