By Kim Tran
On Mondays after school, members of Novato High’s Friday Night Live club get together to tackle issues, such as the amount of alcohol advertisements and homelessness. The class is led by senior Jack Andersen and supervised by English teacher Laura Roberts.
Friday Night Live (FNL) is a club that focuses on providing alternative solutions to binge drinking. FNL was started by Roberts in 2009 along with teachers Jen Russell and Stephanie Searle. The reason why they started the club was to offer alternative activities to teenage drinking on Friday nights. They eventually stopped because they found it wasn’t an effective solution. Now according to Roberts, FNL is focusing on something else.
“Friday Night Live is a group run by YLI, which is the Youth Leader Institute and they’re a youth advocate group that fights to pass or repeal laws that have to do with substance abuse,” said Roberts.
They are currently focusing on a solution to end homelessness in Marin. Before they develop a solution, they are doing research to give an accurate representation of homelessness and the impact of homelessness on the people and the community.
“Right now, we’re still on the research phase,” said FNL Vice President Jose Gonzalez. “We’re doing the norms of homelessness. There’s the big four: the laws, social aspect, media and impact. We decided to focus on media and social norm because compared to the other two, they are a bit easier to mold. Media is how we perceive homelessness. Right now, we are trying to receive the most accurate representation of how people see that. Social norms is how society is acceptable to that term.”
According to Applied Survey Research, the homelessness rate in Novato was at 17 percent in 2015. Of the 222 people that are homeless, 112 are unsheltered. Being unsheltered means living on the street, in an abandoned building, cars or in an encampment area.
Andersen explained what they plan to do about homelessness.
“We plan as a group to try and stop the stereotypes about homeless people. We’re trying to end those stereotypes. We’re trying to help spread good word about homeless people,” said Andersen. “We’re also trying to see what their stories are. We’re going to go talk to a bunch of homeless people around Marin and see what’s up with them. We’re going to work together and get rid of the social norms around homelessness.”
One of their previous projects include their battle to remove excessive ads from liquor stores in Novato. They took this issue to the Novato City Council, receiving unanimous support from council members and promised to be more strict to the regulation of alcohol advertisements. They followed up so far and checked if the liquor stores are in compliance with the Lee Law and the Novato Compliance by taking photos over winter break. They found that since FNL visited, some stores have been in compliance with the law, while others have not. They have found that some stores even posted advertisements on ceilings, finding loopholes in the Lee Law.
“We’ve worked on talking to the Novato council and having the Lee Law changed, which is the amount of advertising that liquor stores are allowed to have in their windows,” said Roberts. “We’ve just done a lot of work lately about advertising and how advertising is insidious and it makes people think that everybody’s out there drinking. Everybody’s out there having fun. When actually, the reality is a lot of kids aren’t. About only 30% of kids in high school drink alcohol on a regular basis and the rest of the kids are just out there having fun.”
Andersen was excited to join the club and saw the importance of Friday Night Live.
“I joined this club freshman year because my best friend’s brother was president and I just wanted to be with my best friends. When I heard that it was about alcohol and drugs, and trying to prevent those in teenagers, I thought it was awesome because alcohol has affected my family’s life a lot. I thought I wanted to make a difference,” said Andersen.
Gonzalez was also drawn to the importance of the club.
“My favorite aspect of the club is that I like how we all work together to accomplish some goal,” said Gonzalez. “If we put enough work, we can make an impact on our community and hopefully teach future generations.”
Andersen explained how Novato High students can show support.
“You can go out there and many organizations around homelessness that take donations [and] as much help as they can get to give homeless people a place to stay. Just some blankets, clothes stuff like that. And it really feels good to make a difference. It could be really awesome if a lot of people help out,” Andersen explained.
Gonzalez believes open-mindedness is the key to understanding other people’s situations.
“If people could be more open-minded to situations that they are not familiar with, that would go a long way. I know the cons that people have a hard time comprehending someone’s life that has as many difficult situations as their own,” said Gonzalez.
Friday Night Live continues to address important issues in Marin and implement change in the community.