On March 8, 10 Octorara High School students, along with two advisors, attended the Students against Destructive Decisions (SADD) student conference held at Immaculata University. The theme for this event was "SADD goes Tropical," based on the quote "No man is an island, entire of itself; Every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main." - John Donne
In addition to the Keynote Presentation, which featured the Philadelphia Police Narcotics Unit and was a no holds barred look at the true damage and destruction that tobacco, alcohol, and drugs are causing today's youth. The students were able to take part in one of five discussion groups on subjects ranging from acquaintance rape to smoking to making destructive decisions.
Some of the things the students learned were that there are 4,713 chemicals in a cigarette and that smoking causes 5 million deaths a year worldwide, plus how drugs and alcohol can affect your mind.
Student Samantha Valentine said she chose to take part in the smoking discussion program because her mother smokes and she worries about her getting lung cancer.
Amanda Gordon said she took the Destructive Decisions program, which featured a speaker who forgot to use his seatbelt and resulted in a spinal injury and paralysis.
"Seeing first hand what someone went through (is much stronger) than being told by someone who hasn't lived through it," said student Graham Shakford.
Students were also taught that every 15 minutes one person is involved in a drinking and driving accident and every half-hour someone dies. At least 48 people will die every hour from a drinking and driving accident and 1,600 will die from binge drinking, which is considered five or more drinks in one sitting.
SADD advisor Tammy Fink said the goal of the conference was for students to learn how to make informed decisions, to get them to think before acting.
"The implied benefit is that they got information that they will talk about with others, their friends," said Fink. "Kids empower kids."
Student Becky Rudolph said she was struck by how everyone's life was changed in one second. "Some are dead... it's sad that one second could impact your whole life."
Valentine noted that a lot of people don't know that there are 4,713 chemicals in a single cigarette.
"Kids are gullible due to the ads, so they try it... 20 years later they die from lung cancer," she said. "The companies aren't going to tell the truth, they just want to make money.
The students will be sharing what they learned at their next SADD meeting with other members of the group.
The keynote presentation also looked at the use of marijuana, prescription drugs, methatamines, ectasy, cocaine, LSD, huffing (with 44 percent of sixth grade students reporting using inhalants), and heroin.
Danielle Salada, director of Octorara Communities that Care (OCTC) and who attended the conference with the students, said the presentation was a real revelation for not only the students but also the adults in attendance. It showed pictures and obituaries of students who had died all because of drugs or alcohol.
"As an adult, I think this presentation should be shown to all parents and community members in the Octorara community," said Salada. "As a parent, I felt drained and scared after seeing this true account of drug use. I felt, how I could teach the students and my own children to stay away from these potentially life killing chemicals."
Attending the conference were Samantha and Katelin Valentine, Savoya Mansfield, Megan Wingert, Amanda Gordon, Becky Rudolph, Graham Shakford, Shauna Dugan, Brittany Stine and Jesse Showalter.