I had a great time with Attorney General Tom Horne helping 180 Kids say ‘YES’ to a healthy lifestyle and ‘NO’ to underage drinking today. We spoke about April being Alcohol Awareness Month and also about my work with Ask, Listen, Learn. This was my first stop as part of my plan for visiting middle schools across the country with The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility.

I must admit my adrenaline was going as I walked onto the campus of Phoenix Collegiate Academy, located in downtown Phoenix, early this morning.  It rarely rains here but it poured today!   Phoenix Collegiate Academy is a newer school and was created to prepare fifth to twelfth grade students to succeed in college and be leaders in our community.  A perfect place for the Ask, Listen and Learn message!

When I arrived, 6th and 7th graders were seated and waiting to hear from me!  I started by asking them who had talked to their parent or another role model about underage drinking.  I was surprised by the small number of hands.  It made my message all the more personal and important.

The Ask, Listen, Learn program is personal for me. It provides me with an outlet for educating young teens about what it takes to succeed.  I believe that achieving dreams is achievable for each and every student.  They just need to stay focused.  It may not be as an Olympic swimmer, but they can achieve their own personal best if they start now with healthy decisions. The more kids I can talk to, the more hopeful I am they will stay away from alcohol and be able to thrive both in school and their personal life.

Also, as someone who swims for a living, competing against some of the fastest people in the pool, in the world, I know that you have to keep your health at 100% to be truly successful.  I have to take care of my body to get it to perform, and I know that it is one decision at a time.  I was happy some of the kids asked me about what tough decisions I had to make as a teen and how I handled peer pressure with balancing swimming and studying in school. I let them know that I worked hard in school and in the pool, and if I had chosen underage drinking as a kid, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

I encouraged each of them to go to the Ask, Listen and Learn website and take “The Pledge.”  I told them I would be checking!  I also encouraged them to talk to their parent or another adult about their choices.  Saying “NO” to drinking while underage is a healthy choice that will allow them to reach their goals more easily.