SADD news

Student conference, mock crash events canceled

A past SADD conference.

There are some important messages that aren’t being delivered to students because schools are closed.

The annual SADD — Students Against Destructive Decisions — conference was originally scheduled for today, Friday, April 17.

The event typically brings together about 150 students from Warren and Forest counties, according to advisor Matt Gernold.

And, within a few weeks, mock crashes would have been held at Youngsville and Warren high schools.

“We have the SADD conference to bring a positive message and information to the students who attend,” Gernold said. “It’s also a great way for students to interact with kids from other schools that they might not normally get to meet.”

A past SADD conference with guest speaker Officer Scott Neiswonger.

Students from all four Warren County School District high schools, Tidioute Community Charter School, Warren County Christian School, and Forest Area School District typically attend.

“The conference has a keynote speaker followed by four breakout sessions that the students rotate through,” Gernold said. “The theme for this year’s conference was going to be ‘Passion is Power.'”

“This year, our Keynote speaker was scheduled to be Dr. Nathaniel J. Williams, who was going to speak about getting the best from yourself,” Gernold said. “Dr. Williams has four graduate degrees, including a Master of Business Administration (MBA), a Master of Public Administration (MPA), a Master of Human Services (MHS), and a doctorate in education (Ed.D).”

“Dr. Williams was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters from Lackawanna College in May, 2018,” Gernold said. “His career span has included a multitude of successive roles as a direct-care worker, house parent, social services entrepreneur, business entrepreneur, Chief Executive Officer, adjunct professor, scholar-in-residence, and TV talk show host, all of which he enlivens with his passion to help others realize their full potential.

“We were also scheduled to have kids speak from Abraxas, which is a substance abuse, delinquency, and mental health center; Warren County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Tom Kibbey, and K9 Dina, to talk about their jobs; City of Warren Police Sergeant Jeff Dougherty on vaping and tobacco (issues); and Assistant District Attorney Cody Brown and Warren County Detective Brian Zeybel on street drugs,” Gernold said. “Organizations like Beacon Light, A Safe Place, The Woman’s Care Center, The Department of Health, and The Victim Impact Panel also attend the conference to set up informational tables for the tables.

Photo submitted to Times Observer A past mock crash held at Youngsville High School. “Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we are not able to have the mock accidents for the students this year, either,” advisor Matt Gernold said.

“The SADD program is completely funded by donations, grants and fundraisers, so we greatly appreciate the support from the local businesses and community who help us fund the program each year,” Gernold said. “This year’s business sponsors were Midtown Motors, Betts Industries, United Refining, Zandi Cochran Lumber, Pascuzzi Accounting and Tax, The Exchange Club of Warren, The Community Foundation, and FOP Lodge No. 83.

“We always have overwhelmingly positive feedback from the students on the conference, so it’s disappointing they will miss out on the great information that is shared from the presenters,” Gernold said.

While students will miss out on those presentations, there is still information available at the SADD website (sadd.org) and the Facebook page.

“Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we are not able to have the mock accidents for the students this year, either,” Gernold said. “Each year, Deputy Rachael Canfield works with various emergency and medical departments throughout the county to bring the mock accidents to seniors.

“The objective of a mock crash event is to educate teens, young adults, and community members about the tragedy of traffic crashes, and to reinforce the importance of using seat belts, paying attention behind the wheel, and to show the consequences of driving after consuming alcohol and/or distracted driving,” Gernold said. “Select students from the schools create the accident scenario and participate in the accident, with at least one student playing a deceased victim. These students are also dressed up with fake blood and wounds to make it more realistic. Once the scenario starts, medical and emergency personal respond and react just like it was a real accident.

“According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), in 2017, a total of 1,147 children 14 and younger were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes,” he said. “Of those 1,147 fatalities, 19 percent (220) occurred in alcohol-impaired driving crashes. Of those 220 deaths, 54 percent were occupants of vehicles with drivers who had BACs of .08 or higher.”

The event does not go to every school every year.

“This year, Warren and Youngsville were scheduled to have theirs,” he said. “Unfortunately, because we are not able to have the mock accidents this year, that means that the juniors and seniors at Warren and Youngsville will miss seeing the accident. The next time the accidents will be at their schools will be 2022.”


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