Interview by Kim Rippere, President of Secular Woman

Angela Champaneria is secular mother who is battling her family and community regarding teenage drunk driving.  Her daughter was recently in a car accident. Angela’s decision to have her daughter take responsibility for her actions was not universally well received.  Adults were supportive, but not all the kids! Here is a recent interview:

How is your daughter? And the other teenagers? Is everyone ok?

My daughter is physically ok now. She had the worse of injuries. All the other kids are fine.

What do you have to say about teenage drinking? Teenage driving? Teenage drinking and driving?

I personally feel that drinking before the legal age is wrong, period. I feel parents need to take more precautions to prevent this. I feel teenagers should not be allowed to drive till age 18. I have always felt this way. Aside from alcohol, teenagers just don't make good choices.

Do you see any roll in this for peer-pressure or bullying?

I feel peer pressure exists, for the good and for the bad. There are good role models and there are bad. When we are around people we like and look up to, we tend to follow them, even if it's not right.

What has been the most surprising thing in the wake of the accident and the position you have taken?

The most surprising thing in general is the lack of lessons learned. My daughter for example has learned not to get in a car with someone who is drunk. She has not learned that drinking as a minor is wrong and dangerous, period!

What are three things you want teenagers and parents to know about teenage drinking?

Teenage drinking is a major problem that affects us all in the end. Just because your child says he or she is not drinking, does not mean they are not! take away opportunities by taking away communication at night (cell phone, electronics etc). As a parent you need to be firm because these kids will find a way to do it if you as a parent are not on top of it. Trust me, it was a lesson for me personally.

What three resources do you recommend regarding teenage drinking? Why do you recommend them?

I recommend getting involved with MADD. They have support and resources for everyone involved. It is by far one of the best organizations out there and I don't know where I would be without their support. Establishing your own network of friends and family to have gatherings with and to be involved with regularly would help in the sense that you can pull together as a village to help a teen who is going on the wrong path. Get involved with whatever spiritual outlet you have or non spiritual network, in assistance with the teens inner being.

How can a community “pull together and do something?” How are you leading this in your community?

By pulling together as a community, we as parents need to start in our own homes. If the parents take firm action in their homes, this will cut the issue in half, I guarantee! We also need to have stricter laws in Montana in order to wake these kids and some parents up. Start fining the parents if the teen is caught drinking underage. Allow law enforcement more mobility when it comes to catching minors. Make harsher consequences for minors so that they really think before doing it again. Laws need to be changed, this is a fact. I have started the ball rolling by speaking up and taking action. I am far from done. I plan on assisting in legal changes as well.

What are the next steps for you? Your family? Your community?

The next steps for me are getting involved with changing laws. I will continue to express the importance of parenting in every way possible. My family will be getting involved in support of fundraisers for victims of Auto related accidents. The community has been very supportive minus the kids involved/ indirectly involved.

What was the role of social media in supporting (or not) you and your decisions?

The media has been super supportive. Many people have contacted the Shelby Promoter and myself expressing their gratitude that the Promoter took action and did something. I have had been contacted by many sources wanting the story for their paper as well. People feel it's a Nationwide issue and that no ones ever stands up and addresses the issues. They feel this story will benefit everyone everywhere and give strength to parents who are feeling weak with no outlet or support.

How has this changed you?

1My being has changed in so many ways. I have become stronger and more active due to almost losing my baby. I have realized that this has happened to so many people and that they need assistance. I've learned that addressing the issue publicly has given so many people relief and comfort. We can now as a community move forward…together!


Angela’s Biography:

The Majority of people find their support and guidance from a Church. Given that I don't belong to any particular Religious group I have found it very hard to find a support group. I have morals and values and a sense of right from wrong without a book. I feel like our voices, as secular woman, are not heard unless there is a religion to thank for saving us. I have been an example to my children, family and friends that non religious woman are just as moral as any woman who follows rules from a book. So many people have mistaken me as being very religious due to my lifestyle and beliefs. I have found that they end up respecting and trusting me more due to that. I feel that secular woman also should be given credit for being good moral Mothers, wives, sisters and friends. We are good people, there is nothing to fear of us

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