Stories of Hope

From L to R: Cynthia Schiebel, Sierra Castedo, and Nigel Cunningham Williams

Sierra Castedo recalls drinking kahlua with milk as early as age 10. She grew up outside of the U.S. in an environment that was more permissive when it came to youth alcohol use. Having a drink at a young age under parental supervision “wasn’t a big deal.” She drank every day in college, but she was making good grades so she didn’t believe she was an addict – at least not a typical addict.

Nigel Cunningham Williams began getting high every single day when he started attending a public high school. His grades and attendance dropped, his group of friends changed – and his parents decided military school was the answer. (It wasn’t.) After barely graduating from high school, he transitioned from marijuana to mushrooms to methamphetamines. It was only after attending the funeral of a friend who had overdosed that he realized the body in the casket could have been his own.

In one of our plenary sessions at our recent Statewide Summit, Cynthia Schiebel – a licensed professional counselor, trainer, and life coach who has been sober and in recovery for more than 30 years – led a conversation with Sierra and Nigel, who shared their stories of recovery and hope with our Statewide Summit attendees.

Today, Sierra and Nigel are both in long-term recovery, and they are dedicating their lives to helping others who are struggling with addiction as well. Sierra is President of the Center for Students in Recovery at the University of Texas at Austin; Nigel works with Rise Recovery in San Antonio.

The “Stories of Hope” panel reminds us that addiction does not discriminate, that access to drugs and alcohol is easier than we realize, and that younger people are the most vulnerable.
The panelists’ stories also remind us why our prevention work is especially important – if we can make changes in our communities so that it’s harder for all youth to access substances, not only can we help prevent more young people from encountering some of the difficulties that Sierra and Nigel faced, but we can also help save lives.

We are grateful Cynthia, Sierra, and Nigel took the time to share their stories and inspire Summit attendees to keep working towards creating healthier, safer communities for all Texans.

New Routines, New Opportunities for Underage Alcohol Use

The start of the school year is an exciting time! Students have the opportunity to try new activities, make new friends, and experience new social situations. However, these positive changes can also create conditions like social and academic pressures that leave young people especially vulnerable to dangerous alcohol use and abuse. Parents taking steps to prevent underage alcohol use and abuse is essential to promoting the safety of their children.

The majority of underage drinking takes place in social settings, such as at home and at parties. Even if parents are at home, underage drinking that occurs at parties can have many negative consequences, including violence and assaults, unplanned sexual activity, combination drug use, property damage and vandalism, and binge drinking and alcohol poisoning. Preventing underage social access to alcohol can help reduce these negative consequences.

Parents play a critical role in preventing underage drinking. If parents do not provide a space for underage drinking to occur, young people are significantly less likely to drink. Parents can help change attitudes and expectations that underage drinking is just a fact of life in their community by providing social activities that are alcohol-free and speaking with other parents about the consequences of underage drinking at parties, with or without supervision. Fostering an environment where underage drinking is not viewed as an inevitable rite of passage can help prevent many of the destructive consequences of underage social access to alcohol.

The beginning of the school year is fun and exciting. However, the changes in environment, friends, and school stressors can lead to unhealthy behavior. Parents should have a plan of action to help their kids stay out of trouble when it comes to underage drinking and alcohol abuse. When parents are undeniably clear with their children that are expected to obey the law and not drink underage, their children more often listen to them over their peers. Reducing youth access to alcohol at house parties and in other social situations can keep them safe and healthy – not just as kids, but well into adulthood.

Coalition Spotlight: IMPACT Waxahachie

Because they are among our most active coalition partners, Texans Standing Tall decided to spotlight IMPACT Waxahachie this month. Thanks for working so hard to make a difference in your community, IMPACT Waxahachie!

We took a moment to talk to Jennifer Heggland, Coalition Coordinator, and Shari Phillips, DFC Project Manager, to learn a bit more about their team and what they love about the work they do. Check it out below!


Spotlight: Palmview Passes Smoke-Free and Social Host Ordinances

Congratulations to Palmview, TX, for passing smoke-free and social host ordinances on April 4! Thanks to the hard work of the Hidalgo County Tobacco Prevention and Control Coalition and the UNIDAD Coalition, Palmview became the 14th city in the Valley to pass a smoke-free ordinance and the first in the Valley – and third in the state – to pass a social host ordinance.

The city’s new social host ordinance addresses underage alcohol use and the associated negative consequences by holding individuals responsible for providing a place where anyone under age 21 has access to alcohol. Those who violate the ordinance could face a civil fine of $500 for their first offense; subsequent violations could result in fines of up to $1,000. The police department and UNIDAD will immediately begin a public education campaign to increase awareness of the ordinance prior to enactment.

Texans Standing Tall is proud to support Palmview and all of the other cities in Texas working to create positive community change. To learn more about smoke-free ordinances, contact Steve Ross at; to learn more about social host ordinances, contact Libby Banks at For more information about addressing underage alcohol and tobacco use in your community, visit Texans Standing Tall’s website at or give us a call at 512-442-7501.

UNIDAD Coalition with TST’s Brian Lemons after Palmview passed the Valley’s first social host ordinance.
Hidalgo County Tobacco Prevention and Control Coalition after passing the smoke-free ordinance in Palmview, TX.

Postmates Looks to Expand Alcohol Delivery Service to Texas Cities

In select cities across the country, youth will soon have the ability to throw an underage drinking party in 25 minutes or less thanks to the Postmates service beefing up its selection of products offered. In the coming months, the startup delivery service is planning to partner up with more liquor and corner stores to get alcohol to its customers in its promised time of 25 minutes.

Postmates is a delivery service app available in major cities across the country, including Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and West Lake Hills. Sort of like Lyft, consumers can download the app on their phones and have groceries and other food items delivered right to their front door. The company’s call to expand comes as they approach the milestone of reaching a billion dollars in gross merchandise revenue. In Austin, Postmates will begin to compete with the alcohol delivery services like BrewDrop (now a part of and Drizly, who get around selling alcohol through a regulated brick and mortar establishment by acting as a connection between the store and the customer. The apps list the inventory available and the customer selects what they want. The alcohol is then delivered by the liquor store employees.

These companies must hold a permit through the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), like what FedEx and UPS hold, where the company proves to TABC that its drivers who deliver alcohol have been through a certifies training course. The course trains sellers of alcohol beverages how to identify intoxicated individuals and refusing to sell minors to alcohol.

The expanded service is rolling out in San Francisco and Los Angeles first, but the company plans to expand it to other cities in the coming months. There’s just one little problem with Postmates’ push for more revenue: it will be yet another way for underage youth to get their hands on alcohol.  The Texas Department of State Health Service’s 2014 Texas School Survey reports 24% of middle and high school students get their alcohol from their home, 28% report getting alcohol from their friends and 32% report getting it from parties. It is completely nonsensical for companies to offer any services that will make it easier for youth to get alcohol. This service is likely to deliver alcohol to young adults hosting parties where underage drinkers are present.

Current Texas law applies to all alcohol delivery services. For example, liquor stores cannot deliver outside of business hours, and ID has to be shown to delivery drivers. Still, young people are crafty and can find a way around these flimsy checks. Drivers can be held criminally accountable if they are found to have to delivered alcohol to minors. Adults at parties are also subject to Texas’ criminal statutes around providing alcohol to minors, but criminal cases have a higher burden of proof. The high burden of proof associated with criminal cases is why civil social host ordinances are so effective for preventing underage alcohol. A civil social host ordinance works because it has a lower burden of proof and it is swift, certain and severe. Underage party hosts will be charged with an appropriate fine for the community and will be cited on the spot. Here at Texans Standing Tall, we are constantly working to raise awareness among parents, guardians, and our partners about the risks of underage alcohol use; with technology constantly easing access to alcohol, it is hard for us, let alone laws, to keep up. This is where a social host ordinance is most effective.

A social host ordinance holds individuals accountable for providing the location where underage drinking takes place. San Antonio is the only city in Texas where apps similar to Postmates are available and has a social host ordinance in place.

Alcohol leads to a variety of negative consequences like violence, sexual assault, unplanned sexual activity, property damage, and alcohol poisoning. However, those things often get overlooked when $10 million — the magic number Postmates is hoping to generate in 2017 as it expands its alcohol delivery services — is within reach. Is anybody else tired of hearing that money is the driving force behind new products, services, and technologies that make alcohol more accessible to youth? We certainly are tired of seeing our youth sold out for a bottom line and profits.

To learn more about how a social host ordinance would help keep our youth safe and healthy, read about San Antonio’s social host ordinance on our blog and visit for more information.