Students from all four county high schools, Tidioute Community Charter School, East and West Forest High School and Kane High School attended the 23rd annual Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) Spring Conference at the Holy Redeemer Center in Warren on Friday.
The theme this year was "Until I walk a mile in your shoes," encouraging students to think about how their actions and words affect others.
Sterlen Barr was the keynote speaker with his presentation "No Place to Hate."
Times Observer photo by Rob Andersen
From left, Michael Podell, Ozzy Strait and Nathaniel McDonald speak to Students Against Destructive Decision members about mistakes made in their past, life at Abraxas and their dreams for the future.
Barr, or "No Puff Daddy," the CEO of Rapping About Prevention Inc., is a health educator and motivational rap artist.
One of the organization's representatives, Demetrius Horton said that during a break-out session after the presentation, groups of students were encouraged to write anti-drug, bully-free rap songs, poems and skits.
The No Place for Hate focuses on changing the idea that kids aren't supposed to tell an adult when they see or experience something wrong, and addresses bullying, teasing and harmful playing.
The program teaches students to respect themselves and others, including those perpretrating the bullying.
Student groups rotated through workshops addressing distracted and reckless driving, the number one killer of teenagers today, and a presentation by students from Abraxas in Marienville.
John Rhoades, who an Abraxas counselor, asked who had experimented with drugs or alcohol, saying, "There's no cops or teachers here."
A few students raised their hands, and Rhoades said, "At least some of you are being honest."
One of the Abraxas students told the group, "The worst thing about being here is loss of your liberty. I dug myself into this hole, now I have to dig myself out."
April MacKinlay, an Abraxas teachers' aide, said the average stay in the facility was six months. "During that time, your boyfriends or girlfriends move on with their lives," she said.
Each year, this day provides students with information about how the decisions they make can affect their lives.
Warren County SADD coordinator Bonnie Webster said that 176 students attended the event.