When Sgt. Tom Culbert, Mohonasen High School’s resource officer, won a $1,000 national prize from Allstate Insurance for leading a mock-DWI car crash program last spring, he decided to put the prize money into a fund that would help start a local chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD).
Now, only a few months into the club’s first year, the chapter has more than 25 active members.
I’m excited about the membership, said Culbert, a former DARE teacher. `It’s a nice group of motivated kids.`
The group hosted a dance on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, handing out ribbons provided by a local Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) chapter to all ticket-holders. The ribbons served as a pledge that the students wouldn’t drink and drive. This week, the club continues to raise awareness about the dangers of bad decision-making with two programs that attempt to prevent students from doing something they regret over their upcoming holiday break.
At an after-school chapter meeting on Friday, Dec. 14, students taped peppermint candies to slim sheets of green paper that bore little reminders like, `You don’t need drugs or alcohol to have holiday cheer,` and were passed out in homerooms this week.
The SADD club will also run its `Chain of Life` event this week. According to Culbert, students will pay 25 cents each to write their names on a construction paper `link.` Each grade will compete to see who has the most participation, and the winner will get half of the money raised placed into their class fund. The other half of the money will go into the SADD budget. At the end of the program, all the links will be connected to exhibit solidarity.
`One bad decision by a classmate breaks the chain,` said co-president of SADD Skylar Aviza. `And, if you think about it, it really would if something happened to someone here at Mohonasen.`
A national organization, SADD once stood for Students Against Drunk Driving. Now, the organization has expanded its interests. According to the national Web site, the club’s mission is `to provide students with the best prevention and intervention tools possible to deal with the issues of underage drinking, other drug use, impaired driving and other destructive decisions.`
Mohonasen hasn’t had an active chapter of SADD since about 2000. Special education teacher Ben Pierson was an informal advisor for the club eight years ago, and when he heard they were reactivating the program, he jumped in. Already, he said, membership of the new chapter is triple what it was and is benefiting from the help of several advisors.
`This club differs from something like a French club in that it is non-specific. It’s a universal cause that all teachers from all disciplines and all students can get behind.`
Culbert said he has a number of programs planned for the spring, especially when prom season begins.
`We’re planning a multimedia show sponsored by MADD in April, and we’ll have another mock DWI crash this year, which has a really effective message,` said Culbert. `The crash will involve everyone from members of SADD to the theater department to local law enforcement and firefighters.`
The students involved in SADD like to think they can be positive examples for others.
`I like to be involved,` said Aviza, who also serves as a student representative on the board of education. `I want to be a role model for the younger kids in school.`
For co-president Brittany Heermance, also a senior, being a part of SADD was a way to take a stand.
`A lot of the people I know do bad stuff,` said Heermance. `I thought that being a part of SADD would be a way to combat that.`
At Mohonasen, it seems discussion and awareness of potential problems might be the key to avoid them altogether.
`We’ve been lucky that nothing tragic has hit us in the recent past,` said Pierson. `What we’re doing is preventative.`
At the Monday, Dec. 3 meeting, the Mohonasen Board of Education voted unanimously to recognize the SADD chapter as an official school club.