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Students take part in SADD conference

It was a change, but it was a change that the participants embraced.

The theme of the 29th annual Warren County SADD Conference this month was “Be the Change.”

The event was held as a virtual Zoom meeting on Friday, April 9.

About 100 students from all over Warren County participated.

The speakers for the conference presented a variety of information.

“Our first speaker of the day was Dustin Reichert,” Warren County SADD Coordinator Matt Gernold said. “Dustin was a deputy sheriff for almost 10 years, retiring medically in 2005 from the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota after receiving an injury in a violent gun battle.”

He shared some of his challenges along a journey of more than 10 years. “Battling through conflict, depression, anxiety and PTSD, he finally found peace and happiness by using the power of the positive mind,” Gernold said. “He shared his story with the students to help them understand the power of the mind, the power of laughter, working together, and how to take control of their lives.”

After that, the students heard from Philip Little about the dangers of vaping.

“Philip is a Specialist with the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General and presented, ‘Behind the Smoke — Vaping is No Joke,” Gernold said. “He talked about the myths behind vaping and nicotine and presented evidence to help inform students about the risks of e-cigarettes.”

The final speaker of the event was George Maurer. “George is an accomplished musician and composer who also has a passion for bicycling,” he said.

Using his “Tales from a Bicycle Seat,” Maurer spoke about diversity, cultural exchange, character education, and growth mindset, Gernold said. The tales detail his travels in the United States, Iceland, Patagonia, Sri Lanka, Canada, and Vietnam.

As usual, the students also participated in break-out activities.

“The students were tasked with creating their own SADD slogan and then presented it to the other schools,” Gernold said. “They competed against the other schools in Matchstick Challenges — where students solve puzzles by moving matchsticks — and a marshmallow and spaghetti building competition.”

“I would like to thank all of the advisors who worked so hard to help put together the conference,” Gernold said. “I would also like to thank all of our sponsors for the year who helped make this conference possible with their generous donations. Our 2020-2021 sponsors where United Refining, Zandi Cochran Lumber Company, Pascuzzi Tax and Accounting, Betts Industries, F.O.P Lodge #83, Walmart, Community Foundation of Warren County, Exchange Club of Warren, and Icyy Ink.”

“If anyone is interested in watching a short video with highlights from the conference or finding more information about our organization, I encourage them to check out our Instagram or Facebook pages,” he said. “Both can be found by searching Warren County SADD.”

After a year in which the conference had to be canceled, the event went over well.

“I was extremely happy about how well the conference turned out,” Gernold said. “This was our first attempt at holding a virtual conference and everything fell into place perfectly. While there is no replacement for having everyone together in the same room, we were happy to be able to share all of the valuable information with the students. The students evaluations have been overwhelmingly positive and they seemed to have had a great time throughout the day.”

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