OCEAN CITY – The month of May marks the end of school for
many graduating high school seniors and with that brings a well-known ailment
commonly known as senioritis, which is not necessarily a bad thing and most
times can be cured with a trip to the beach come June when the wait for summer
becomes too much to bear.
For the past 18 years, Ocean City’s Play It Safe Program
has been working to ensure seniors who come to Ocean City during the month of
June for their senior weeks have a safe and enjoyable experience by helping
them to make wise decisions.
As the final days of school count down, Donna Greenwood, a
leader for the Play It Safe, said the program is in its final stages of
preparing for visiting seniors.
“The goal of the Play It Safe Program has been the same
thing it has been for 18 years – to encourage them to make informed, healthy
choices without the use of alcohol or other drugs,” Greenwood said.
Greenwood said the group begins planning for the following
year in July, immediately after the senior weeks come to a close.
“We have a wrap-up meeting and invite anyone who has any
part in the program to bring back suggestions on how we can improve on last
year,” she said. “Then in September we start meeting again to plan our events
for next year and working on our goal to reach more kinds with our message.”
Some of the events planned for June include beach
volleyball, windsurfing, moonlight bowling, sandcastle contests, dances on the
beach and more. All of them are free to seniors.
However, not all of this could be done without help from
both the city as well as its business owners and residents, Greenwood added.
Police on the Boardwalk as well as the buses, which are
free to the seniors during their stay, all helps contribute to their safety.
“Chief [Bernadette] DiPino sends them to the events to
check in on us and they help in anyway they can,” she said. “And if we have a problem they are there
immediately, but we rarely ever have a problem.”
Play It Safe also collaborated with the OCPD earlier in
the year to produce a DVD that is now being distributed all over the mid-Atlantic
region to schools who wish to inform seniors on what Ocean City expects of them
when they arrive.
The DVD, produced in conjunction with Comcast of Delmarva,
was released on March 20, and according to Greenwood, is going over really well
at the schools.
As for the Play It Safe program itself, OCPD Community
Services Coordinator Barry Neeb said it is quite an asset for the town.
“It’s been a huge benefit to us and the town for years
because of the positive things they offer to youth when they get here,” he
said. “There is always negative peer pressure out there and it’s nice to see
them focusing on positive things.”
With thousands of seniors participating in Play It Safe’s
events each year, the success of the program really stands out when they sell
it to the next class, Neeb said, thus getting the message out even further and
earlier than what the program or OCPD could do.
Neeb also mentioned the help of local businesses is an
important aspect during that time of year and encourages establishments,
especially lodging, to have good rules.
“We tell them to have appropriate rules and enforce them,”
he said. “That’s the biggest help they can do for us is say, ‘This is the
standard and this is what will be tolerated.’ It’s amazing how many times the
police go to properties where they are not enforced.”
Neeb said by handling many of the smaller problems that
occur, such as noise violations and other small infractions, themselves and
taking responsibility for their own properties it frees up the officers to take
care of the larger problems that may arise in the summer.