Warren County SADD hosts annual conference in April

Times Observer file photo Warren County Coroner Jerry Borden examines the deceased (actor) at the 2018 SADD mock crash at Youngsville High School.

There are plenty of destructive decisions people can make.

The mission of SADD — Students Against Destructive Decision-making — is to help people avoid the dangers of drinking and driving, underage drinking, drug use, discrimination, bullying, and other destructive decisions.

“Warren County SADD puts on many valuable programs for students throughout the county,” Coordinator Matthew Gernold said. “Each year in spring, SADD holds its annual Warren County conference for students.”

About 150 students attend the annual conference. They attend break-out sessions with representatives from organizations like A Safe Place, Abraxas, and Warren County Juvenile Probation, as well as survivors of domestic abuse, and others, Gernold said. “Our conference this year will include speeches from Nancy Lombardo, a retired detective in Oklahoma, and Vernon Hilyer, whose son died in a DUI accident. Representatives from Beacon Light, the Woman’s Care Center of Warren, and Alateen will also be present.”

The conference will take place on Wednesday, April 17, at the Holy Redeemer Center in Warren from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Times Observer file photo Sheffield Area High School student Jacob Fileger attempts to keep his balance and walk a straight line while wearing impairment goggles at the 2018 Students Against Destructive Driving Spring Conference.

“I think SADD is important because it doesn’t just help kids in the school but we can try to educate the community, too,” Sheffield Area High School sophomore Lily Lauffenburger said. “Kids can learn kind of the dos and don’ts and how to keep themselves safe. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.”

“I joined SADD because it stands for Students Against Destructive Decisions and I have a lot of friends who don’t always make good decisions,” Sheffield junior Walker Kyler said. “Maybe I can learn how to help them turn that around and stop.”

“My favorite part of last year’s conference was the Adult Probation officers,” Sheffield sophomore Stevie Stallings said. “They talked to us about teenage problems and things that can happen with texting and sending pictures and stuff that actually relates to what is happening.”

“My favorite part was the two women who talked about their experience with domestic violence and shared their stories so we could learn more about it,” Sheffield sophomore Kiara Foster said.

“I liked the speaker Ty (Sells) at the conference I went to,” Sheffield Area High School sophomore Sam Lauffenburger said. “He was chill and funny and he didn’t try to force his message down our throats but he talked about being a good person and had a good message.”

“Being involved with the SADD Program as the coordinator after taking over for Jessica Arnold last year has been a great experience,” Gernold said. “It has been wonderful to see all of these students who are trying to make a difference in their communities, and within their schools. It’s one thing to get advice from a teacher or adult, but when the message to make good decisions comes from fellow students, the message is so much stronger.”

In addition to the annual conference, SADD also puts on the mock car crashes each year for students before prom, Gernold said. “Deputy (Rachael) Canfield coordinates all of the volunteer fire departments, and police that help with accidents. For each mock accident, students from that school are selected to play different parts in the accident, from being the impaired driver, to being the student that is killed in the accident. This year Sheffield, Eisenhower, and Tidioute will all have mock accidents for their students.”

“Each fall, students are also able to attend the PA State SADD conference at the 7 Springs Resort,” Gernold said. “This past year students heard presentations from various speakers including Ty Sells, and Think Fast.”

SADD is completely non-profit and relies on donations from businesses and organizations, as well as proceeds from fundraisers by students. The average cost of the SADD program is $5,000, but can be much more. “Some presenters that we have looked at bringing in to talk to the students cost as much as $3,000,” Gernold said.

SADD is selling tickets for its inaugural cash raffle.

“Tickets are $25, and the winner will be drawn at the Spring Conference in April,” Gernold said. If the minimum number of tickets is not sold in time for the conference, all money will be refunded to the purchasers.

“The Grand Prize will be $2,000,” Gernold said. There will be additional prizes of $1,500, $1,000, $500, and 25 prizes of $100.

Tickets and information are available by contacting any SADD advisor at Warren County’s high schools, or by contacting Gernold at 728-3504.