Lauren Strecker

Growing up in a college town creates a different atmosphere for high school students – one that exposes them to parties and alcohol at a younger age than most teens.

Because of Oxford’s small size, Talawanda High School (THS) students are in close proximity to the college life of Miami University.

Mark Julian is the parent of a student at THS and also teaches at the high school. Julian said he dislikes his teen socializing with college students because it robs them of their childhood.

“All kids in Oxford grow up too fast,” Julian said.

Of 40 THS juniors and seniors surveyed, 23 of the students admitted to attending college parties. Eighteen of these students also admitted to consuming alcohol at the parties at least once.

“There’s not much to do (in Oxford), so all there is to do is party and drink,” said THS senior Cindy Stahr, 17.

Some students said they feel a closer connection to college students than high school peers.

Talawanda senior Casey Baxter, 18, said her core group of friends attends Miami.

“I don’t have many friends at the school,” Baxter said.

Because most of her time is spent with Miami students, Baxter said she’s anxious to be among them.

“(I) can’t wait to be at Miami,” Baxter said.

Amanda Regan, 17, also a THS senior, said she shares the same feelings as Baxter.

“I seem to get along with (Miami students) way better,” Regan said. “(They’re) less judgmental.”

As social groups blend between Talawanda and Miami students, Talawanda students may feel inclined to attend Miami student off-campus parties as well. Some students said they even find themselves wandering the streets of Oxford looking for something to do, and often find a way to sneak into college parties.

“My friend had tobacco products so, we were walking past a party (and a student) asked if he could use some,” said a 16-year-old THS sophomore who wished to remain anonymous. “My friend obliged and he let us in. They did not ask our age, and we did not tell them.”

Miami-Hamilton student Zachary Garretson said he went to a party in Oxford where “a girl was way under age.” Garretson said she was the younger sister of another person at the party, and he felt uncomfortable with the 15-year-old girl at the party. Garretson said the girl was “way too young to be there” and asked her to leave.

“Sometimes you don’t even know if they’re a minor or not,” Garretson said.

Although it may seem to the Talawanda community that many students are blurring the lines between high school social life and a college social life, Sgt. Jim Squance, community policing coordinator of the Oxford Police Department (OPD), said the issue of underage drinking has decreased in the past couple of years.

“People that have house parties are trying to keep out underagers,” Squance said.

Squance said he likes to think the OPD is “making some headway” in controlling underage drinking culture in Oxford.

“We haven’t seen any huge house parties that are out of control this year or last year,” Squance said.

Squance said Miami is also “taking action” to control underage drinking. Miami University made changes to its academic code of conduct in the 2009-10 Code of Student Conduct with stricter code one and code two sanctions for its own students.

Students can now be suspended for violating both academic and non-academic honesty expectations, according to the Office of Ethics and Student Conflict Resolution’s Code of Student Conduct.