Leaders from Millburn High School joined nearly 400 youth role models from around the U.S. at the 27th Annual SADD National Conference this past summer in Torrance, California.
MHS seniors, Isabelle Amarger, Rachel Ben-Menachem, Kerry Donnelly, Rebecca Mandel and learned and shared best practices to improve teen health and safety at the conference on June 24 through 27 in Torrance, Calif.
“It was really a once in a lifetime experience to be able to meet other people from around the country because I was able to see how similar our lives were despite our geographical differences," Mandel said. "All four of us learned so much more about our cause and we were able to share our insight with others.”
With a donation of $2500 from DCH Auto Group’s Teen Safe Driving Foundation for two students and one advisor advisor Jennifer Manis joined the students on the trip. The club held fundraisers to support the cost of the other two attendees, and their fundraising was matched by DCH Millburn AUDI.
“Empowering young people and equipping them with the tools to inspire positive change are at the heart of the SADD National Conference,” said Penny Wells, SADD president and CEO. “It’s truly encouraging to see firsthand the dedication from chapter leaders and know that beyond the conference, thousands of young people will be changed for the better.”
Students were especially moved by guest speakers who shared stories of how their lives were personally affected by dangerous driving and hope to bring these kinds of speakers in for assemblies during the school year.
“It was great to meet like-minded peers and see how many teens across America are dedicated to supporting their peers in making safe choices," Amarger said. "It makes us feel stronger in our purpose to spread the word about safe driving.”
During the 2011-12 school year, Millburn High School SADD organized the first annual Battle of the Classes to bring out school spirit and encourage a fun Friday night activity. They also organized a panel discussion on underage drinking, as well as many other safe driving awareness events throughout the year. They ended the school year collecting food for the New Jersey Food Bank to help keep food in stock for underprivileged students who would not have access to free and reduced lunch programs when schools closed for the summer. Christopher Hanzely is also an advisor of the club.
“I enjoyed meeting other advisors from across the country and sharing ideas about increasing safe driving awareness in the community and helping our club grow, Manis said. "I look forward to working with these teen leaders in the coming year and sharing what we learned in California.”
In addition to sessions focusing on youth advocacy and SADD’s legislative priorities, other conference highlights included the following:
- MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) staff presented the organization’s latest underage drinking prevention initiative.
- The Riverside County SAFE Task Force helped youth understand how to stay safe on the Internet.
- Stixs and Stones provided a creative and active workshop session about promoting healthy relationships and stimulated dialogue around issues of dating and domestic violence.
- Cars.com helped teens learn the best tools, tips, and tricks to digitally brand themselves as young professionals and use social media to inspire teens instead of create negative outcomes.
- National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS) empowered teens to help spread awareness to save the lives of their peers through its “Act Out Loud for the Safest Summer Ever” campaign because the summer months are the most deadly and dangerous time for youth on the roads.