Inspiration can come from some pretty strange places, especially if you’re in High School. If you think about it, most of the modern day high school experience is kind of strange. From the pressure to fit in, the pressure to do well, the pressure to figure out what will come next, it all seems a bit overwhelming. Looking back, I wonder how I made it through those four years. Then it comes to me: my mentors, all individuals who have changed my life because of SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions). SADD is a national non-profit with over 10,000 chapters in high schools and middle schools across the country. These chapters are powered by passionate individuals who serve as mentors to the students that make our chapters thrive. A mentor can be anyone who helps you understand the world around you, provides you guidance in a moment of confusion, or just cares enough to listen. Mentors like my friends, who have stood beside me as we challenged the culture on traffic safety, substance abuse, and personal health and safety. My parents have been my mentors, as they have created a safe space to have even the most difficult of conversations. My SADD chapter advisor, Ms. Dunn, has been my mentor and allowed her passion, dedication, and enthusiasm to be contagious to all she encountered.
In SADD, I found a safe space to be who I am. I found friends who could help me be strong against the social forces to make destructive decisions. No other organization has the ability to empower teens with the resources and knowledge they need to combat the issues that teens face today. These mentors would become life long friends, people I would stay connected with throughout the years. The connection to SADD truly changed my life because the mentors I found in SADD truly changed my life.
My advisor, Ms. Dunn, empowered me to be a leader. She listened to my ideas and supported me in my drive to achieve them. She allowed me to learn by actively facing and overcoming challenges, while at the same time, remained by my side to offer encouragement and guidance when I needed it. Because of her efforts, I was able to develop leadership skills, become more self-confident, develop and build relationships with my peers and community members, and ultimately discover that I was able to influence positive changes. Through SADD I learned that yes, I could make a difference and be a part of something so much bigger than my school, town, and community.
I remember listening to Ms. Dunn present at a Conference on Leadership. She spoke about what she felt empowers youth. Interested in what she had to say, I stopped and listened for few moments. Ms. Dunn said there were four key concepts to empowering youth. Those concepts were to support and actively listen to youth ideas and initiatives; use young people’s ideas; help make their ideas and dreams work; and, lastly, be a positive mentor. When I thought about what she had said, I recalled what empowered me to be a leader and develop as an individual. Everything Ms. Dunn shared at that conference, is exactly how she empowered me. My ideas were heard and I was encouraged to implement them. If I needed advice or guidance, I could always rely on Ms. Dunn.
Now that I’m in college, I’ve come to really realize the importance that these mentors have had on my life. They helped to shape me and mold me into the person I am today. SADD has that ability- because we change not only communities but individuals. The caring adults and friendships that I have made through SADD have allowed me to grow into a citizen that’s working to better the world around me, and I don’t know how I could ask for more than that.
SADD Chapters use mentors as vehicles of change in their schools and communities. Today marks the beginning of NIDA’s National Drug and Alcohol Facts week. Chapters all across the country will be joining together to make positive change to combat drug & alcohol abuse. No other organization has the ability to bring together students and mentors in such an important way to address the rising issues that teens face. After all, studies have shown that teens with a mentor figure in their life are far less likely to engage in risky behaviors.
But, SADD need’s your help. This year, we celebrate 35 years of youth empowerment. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that we cannot continue this fight alone. Today, you can help spread my story and help ensure that thousands of other teens have the chance to be impacted by this incredible organization. I challenge you to give to SADD. Every dollar raised goes towards empowering a teen’s ability to make positive change in their school and community. Now’s your chance. Get involved. Be a mentor and help make SADD strong than ever before.