Scroll through your newsfeed, turn on the news, open the newspaper - there is no shortage of opinions on how we should keep our schools safe. Everyone has their thoughts as to how we protect our young people in this new era of constant threats. In recent weeks, we've been reminded that the health and safety of our youth is never guaranteed. While we could debate policy and perspective surrounding the current tragedy, there are promising outcomes unfolding. We've been reminded of the power that young people have to bring about change. This isn't the first time we've seen teens rise above the social challenges of the day.
The year was 1981, and in a small town outside of Boston, a similar revolution was in the works. After the death of their friends and classmates in alcohol-related car crashes, the teens of Wayland High School realized that if they were going to stop the preventable deaths of their friends, they needed to be part of the solution. Thus, the first chapter of Students Against Driving Drunk (SADD - Now Students Against Destructive Decisions) was born. As the nation's premier youth health and safety organization, SADD currently works to empower teens, engage parents, mobilize communities, and change lives around the issues of traffic safety, substance abuse, and personal health and safety.
Being a teen today is tough. The pressures to confirm, achieve, look a certain way, act a certain way - it all comes together to create a world where young people often contemplate risky behaviors. We know that the involvement of a caring parent/adult is key. We also know that law enforcement is the backbone of our culture, working to keep our communities safe. Adults can have influence, but we've seen time and time again the ability that one young person has to change the outcome of a situation by doing one simple thing - speaking up.
The needless and often times preventable deaths of children and teens is something so unspeakable - it's hard to even process. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2016, we lost nearly 2,082  teens on our roadways due to distracted, impaired, and drowsy drivers. That's an average of five young people a day. We are losing thousands of youth each year to the current opioid crisis. One in four American teens has a diagnosable mental health disorder - many tied to depression, anxiety, and bullying.
How do these statistics make you feel? Do they make you want to take action? Good! Here are four easy things you can do today:
- Start a SADD Chapter - It's simple. Go to sadd.org to find out how.
- Empower, Engage, Mobilize - It is easy to get involved. Start by talking with your teens about these issues. We have conversation starters and more - make sure you're following us on social media (@SADDNation).
- Share a Message of Hope - Our partners at Sandy Hook Promise have great resources that SADD Chapters are using to spread a message of hope.
- Give - We cannot do it alone. Every day we work to raise funds that will help to drive our mission to save lives and protect communities. Give a gift today and save a life.
Let's turn this adversity into action and celebrate the power of this youth movement. Let's join these young people - who are not the leaders of tomorrow, they are the leaders of today.
President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
Richard “Rick” Birt joined the SADD National staff in June 2014 as the Development Officer and, in 2015, became the Director of Strategic Partnerships. In 2016, he was promoted to serve as Executive Vice President. Now as the Acting CEO, Rick leads national operations and development efforts, playing a critical role in managing all national programs and field relations while fostering relationships between the organization and external partners. Rick also manages the SADD National Youth Leadership Councils – the Student Leadership Council (SLC) and College Advisory Council (CAC), and oversees the planning and execution of the annual SADD National Conference on Youth Health & Safety. Rick has years of experience working in the prevention field. Previously, he worked with Impact Teen Drivers to support peer-to-peer-based traffic safety education and training as the Midwest Director of Operations. Rick also has significant experience as a grant writer and has worked with many state agencies on youth health and safety and leadership development. Rick has been deeply involved with SADD, from his selection as the 2009-2010 SADD National Student of the Year to his service as the Ohio SADD State Contact. Rick loves to give back to the community. As such, he was elected to his local Board of Education at Northwestern Schools in Springfield, Ohio leading numerous community and state-wide advocacy efforts with the Ohio School Board Association and the National School Board Association. Rick holds a Bachelor’s degree in political science from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio and is currently in the process of obtaining his MBA in Non-Profit Administration from the University of Notre Dame.