High school senior Rachana Patel has seen the impact of destructive decisions made by her peers in the past.
As this year’s Baldwin High School SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) program president, Patel hopes to not only urge teens to make smarter, safer decisions in life, but encourage local government officials, business owners and the community to advocate for SADD’s new campaign 21 or Bust.
“21 or Bust is a campaign to prevent the sale of alcohol to teens. We’re doing it the week of prom so hopefully there will be [fewer] accidents and reduce the number of teens driving reckless,” Patel said. “We want to bring awareness that it’s an issue. Even if we save one life, it’s worth all of our efforts.”
The 21 or Bust campaign was created as a partnership between SADD and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. SADD chapters team up with local licensed beverage outlets, law enforcement officials and community leaders to prevent the sale of alcohol to those under the age of 21.
“I plan to meet with local city and county government, law enforcement officials and the local Chamber of Commerce to solicit their support for this program and encourage them to spread the word throughout this community,” said Crawford Finley, SADD program advisor. “The largest amount of deaths for teens is around prom. The number of teen deaths in Georgia has gone down a little bit, but that is still one too many teens dying. Nationwide 18 teens die everyday as a result of destructive decisions; that’s got to stop.”
Next week, the eight SADD officers will travel to various local stores licensed to sell alcohol to prompt managers and owners to sign a pledge to follow all state laws related to alcohol sales and strictly check IDs. Campaign 21 or Bust posters are placed in the store along with signs for cooler doors to reinforce the message for those purchasing alcohol.
“The pledge will be placed behind the counter so everyone that comes in the store and attempts to buy alcohol can see it,” said Ajoya McCormick, SADD public affairs officer. “I would like to see not only people change, but the environment change as a whole. Hopefully people who are old enough to buy alcohol will not buy for those underage and they think before they act so they don’t make a decision that has a possible bad outcome.”
During the week of prom slated Saturday, April 20, the 59 high school SADD members plan to shock students with the consequences of poor decisions related to alcohol, drugs and texting while driving. Eighteen SADD members will transform into ghosts to represent the 18 teenagers that die each day and reenact a funeral scene featuring a casket donated by Williams Funeral Home. High school seniors will also watch eye-opening videos related to texting while driving and driving under the influence of alcohol. SADD students will also display signs asking parents, teachers and students to buckle up after school during a Click-It-Or-Ticket exercise.
“In classes sometimes I’ll hear students who have seen the videos say how it’s made an impact on their lives,” Patel said. “We just want to make students aware and be safe. They need to have a designated driver if they’re going to drink, make sure they wear seat belts, and don’t get in the car with people who are drinking and driving.”
According to the Georgia Highway Safety website, Students Against Driving Drunk was founded in 1981 and the organization has grown to become the nation’s dominant peer-to-peer youth prevention organization. In a response to request from SADD students themselves, SADD expanded its mission and name 16 years later, sponsoring chapters called Students Against Destructive Decisions. SADD now highlights prevention of all destructive behaviors and attitudes that are harmful to young people, including underage drinking, substance abuse, impaired driving, violence and suicide.
“I’ve been at this school for nine years, and just about at every prom there was someone who didn’t graduate because they were killed. But since we really started SADD, that number has reduced,” Finley said. “SADD members set a good example in and out of the classroom and in the community. They take care of the community they’re here to serve and the people in it. Money is one thing, but lives [are] worth more than any dollar amount.”
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