Dylan Mullins | SADD National Alum & Board Member
When I first joined Colts Neck High School’s SADD chapter, nearly 8 years ago, I never imagined the profound effect it would have on the early stages of my career trajectory that I am currently sorting out today. Yet as I look to graduate from college in just a few short months, everything from the types of jobs I am seeking, to my personal and professional interests, have been shaped by that first decision to join SADD all those years ago.
I owe much of that decision to Raeann, a friend from high school who first encouraged me to join our school’s SADD chapter. She told me that SADD was a student-led organization, which appealed to my hope of gaining leadership experience before college. While I was also interested in keeping my peers healthy and safe—a curiosity that would later mature into a professional interest and life passion as well—I initially hoped to learn more about advocacy more broadly, and I was certainly not disappointed. From organizing club meetings to planning events, and even creating public awareness campaigns, I gained an incredible amount of experience while being a member of SADD in high school. This experience would prove invaluable throughout college and during later professional experiences as well.
Around the same time I first joined SADD, I also signed up to become an emergency medical technician with my local first aid and rescue squad. The combination of being an EMT and a member of SADD was an eye-opening experience. While the benefits of something as simple as encouraging teens to wear their seatbelts through SADD’s “Rock the Belt” program may have seemed obvious or even banal to some, witnessing the harmful effects of not doing so firsthand as an EMT solidified my passion for keeping others safe through public service. The very first 911 call I ever responded to was for a teen driver—not much older than myself at the time—who had crashed as a result of driving while drowsy. She had been up late the night prior, studying for a big test that she had the next day—a situation familiar to myself and many of my peers at the time. Any one of us could have been that driver. It became my mission, through SADD’s peer-to-peer prevention methods, to ensure that we prevented as many similar situations as possible.
My first experience with SADD National came in the form of SADD SPEAKs (Students for Policy, Education, Advocacy, and Knowledge), SADD’s intensive 4-day leadership and advocacy training institute for rising high school juniors and seniors held annually in Washington D.C. As a student in the Law and Public Service-Learning Center, a magnet school found within Colts Neck High School, I had a deep interest in civics and the legislative process. SADD SPEAKs represented the perfect intersection between my interests in public service, and my passion for keeping others safe. My experience at SADD SPEAKs played a fundamental role in my decision to seek out a career in public service, especially after I learned about all the ways the government plays a role in ensuring the safety of its citizens.
In 2017, I was selected to be SADD’s National President (then known as Student of the Year). I spent my freshmen year of college traveling the country to speak at professional conferences, such as the Lifesavers National Conference on Highway Safety Priorities, and local events held by SADD chapters in many different states. During this time, I was fortunate enough to gain exposure to the professional world of highway safety and youth prevention, which also helped to shape my career ideas and interests. I even interned at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in Washington D.C. during the summer after my first year of college, where I also learned a great deal about the virtues and responsibilities of government service.
After I finished my tenure as National President, I was asked to remain a member of SADD’s National Board of Directors as the Board’s Secretary/Clerk. I’ve served on SADD’s Board of Directors ever since, and I am currently also chairing SADD’s Strategic Planning Committee. Due in large part to the work I have done with SADD and as an EMT, I was also recently awarded the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, which provides graduate school funding and professional development to those seeking to enter the world of public service, such as myself. I do not believe I would have been given this honor, or have had many of these experiences, had it not been for my decision to join SADD nearly 8 years ago. As I look to enter the workforce this spring, I am excited to have been guided by my time with SADD and look forward to seeing all that the organization accomplishes in the future.