by Dawn M. Teixeira
|As SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) celebrates its 35th Anniversary, we are excited to be parting with PromGirl on the establishment of the official National Prom Day, as a day to honor friendship, cherish memories, and enjoy the fun and excitement that this milestone season brings.
As I reflect on Prom, I start to think about what it is, what it meant to me as a teen, and what is means to me now as a mom who is the President and CEO of the nation’s premier youth health and safety organization. To each of these, I see that it presents me and my organization the unique opportunity to save lives by empower teens, engaging parents, and mobilizing communities to ensure that this special season is a happy and safe time for all.
What is Prom? I think it means something different to everyone. For some, Prom is the fairy-tale evening they have been dreaming of for years. They know exactly what they will wear, how their hair will be done, with whom they shall go, and what friends will surround them. It’s going to be a night they will remember forever.
For others, Prom is the nightmare they’ve dreaded-forever. They aren’t dating anyone and have no prospects. They’re shy and so asking someone to be their date or go with them? Not going to happen. They will never consider themselves pretty or handsome, so a dress or tux isn’t going to help.
I know the teen years are tough, I still remember. I also know that today’s teens are facing more complex issues than I ever did in the 80’s. In addition to rapidly growing and changing minds and bodies, many teens experience depression, anxiety, violence, extreme bullying, and a host of other social pressures. Just the pressure to fit in and be considered “normal” sometimes drives teens to abandon what they know is smart and safe. Some choose to cloud Prom night with drugs and alcohol. Some choose to follow the crowd, failing to see that one choice could end it all.
At SADD, we’ve been working to prevent the death and injuries of teens and those around them since 1981. SADD is unique in that we leverage the power of positive peer pressure through a peer-to-peer model of programming, awareness, and advocacy. We empower teens to successfully confront the pressures that challenge them in their daily lives. Every day, SADD students equip their friends with the knowledge and resources they need to do just that; to live the “No-Use Lifestyle” and speak-up with someone is in a potentially dangerous situation. At Prom time, you’ll find thousands of SADD chapters across the country mobilizing their communities to ensure that teens stand strong against making destructive decisions during this time of celebration.
One SADD chapter in Latrobe, Pennsylvania won an award for their pre-prom campaign to promote “positive decision-making” before a “high risk” time. At the event, SADD members featured educational games like Trivia based on safe driving, dangers of drugs and alcohol and binging and showed student produced PSAs. Other SADD chapters attended too and talked about other harmful drugs and their affects. True to SADD’s mission, the greater community was involved too, including local colleges, the Drug Task Force, the Attorney General’s Office, State Farm, and many more. With over 1,000 students participating throughout the day, the SADD members created a one-of-a-kind opportunity for the whole community to talk about Prom safety.
While teens talking to their peers is effective, we know that caring adults also have an important role in the health and safety of our youth. SADD believes that effective “parent-teen” communication is critical. This is why SADD’s Contract for Life is a tool designed to facilitate communication between teens and the caring adults in their lives. It’s as relevant now as it was when it was created in 1981. Download a copy here. We keep the communication coming in our quarterly “Parent-Teen Matters” Newsletter so sign-up today!
So on this day, the first National Prom Day, I am excited for teens all across the country and what this day CAN mean for everyone. Regardless of the dance moves you have. Despite the battles you face every other day of the year. No matter how pretty or handsome you feel, know that you as an individual matter! Prom is the time to celebrate you, the importance you have to everyone in your life. Make your celebration safe; free from drugs and alcohol. Be smart behind the wheel and make sure your friends are safe too. Be that friend that speaks-up and ensures that everyone gets home safely. You may feel silly in the moment, but your friends will thank you later. If you ever feel like you don’t belong, stop by your local SADD meeting. In our organization, you’ll find a committed group of friends who want to make a difference in their community and create a safe space to be who they really are. That’s the power of SADD.
Other Resources from our Partners
National Road Safety Foundation
Liberty Mutual Insurance
The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at MGH