Youngsville SADD chapter plans town meetings, conferences

A state grant is enabling Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) at Youngsville High School to present three meetings and conferences starting next week.

The first event will be a town hall meeting at the Youngsville Fire Hall at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 10. The second event will be a SADD conference at Holy Redeemer Church in Warren on April 19, and the third will be a presentation at Youngsville Elementary Middle School for grades 4 through 8 on a date to be determined.

The grant, which was received in January, was written by Carl McKee, adult probation director for Warren County. McKee handed the grant over to Youngsville Police Chief Todd Mineweaser and Abbey Wolfe, who works for Youngsville Borough. Wolfe said, “I interned with Chief Mineweaser, and I kind of took it over.”

One of the requirements of the grant is that students do the work in planning and carrying out the meeting, and do the leg work for the events, including printing and distributing flyers and information, mailing invitation postcards to previous sponsors, rounding up motivational speakers and organizing presentations.

Wolfe said she meets once or twice a week with the students to follow up.

The town hall meeting will explore both the positives and the problems in the community, focusing on solutions and what works rather than what doesn’t. It is intended to be an open discussion about how to prevent destructive decisions. SADD member Jenna Bower said, “(speakers for the meeting) will pretty much represent both sides of the issues.”

The speakers include Mineweaser, representing the law; Atty. Bernard T. Hessley as a defense attorney although he is also a former prosecutor with the Erie County District Attorney’s office; Justin Ludwig of Deerfield Behavioral Health; and private citizens and students.

The key statement, found on SADD posters, flyers and paper t-shirts taped to lockers throughout the school is “Where do you draw the line?”

Students are asked to consider what is okay and what crosses over to destructive behavior, whether it is about drugs and alcohol, bullying, safety issues at home and at school, and all other areas of life both for themselves and their friends. Wolfe said, “It’s about controlling your own behavior, but also knowing when to step in when a friend crosses the line.” SADD members agreed that suggestions coming from another teenager were easier to accept than advice from “another nagging parent.”

Wolfe and Mineweaser asked the YHS SADD group to host the meeting to present the results of the Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS) data, emphasizing results specific to this area. The survey is done every other year, for sixth, eighth, tenth and 12th grade students statewide by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, and is broken down into local communities so the information is about local students.

Kennedie Ebersole said, “Parents expect kids to know what is right.”

Bower added, “Only 47 percent of local high school seniors have parents tell them that alcohol use is wrong, although 94 percent of sixth graders report parents telling them.”

Information in the survey includes both protective factors and risk factors affecting the decision-making process. Protective factors include, but aren’t limited to, school rewards and opportunities, and family attachment, and some of the greatest risk factors are community disorganization and parental attitudes favoring antisocial behavior.

SADD member Michelle Cantrell will run a Power Point presentation with data from PAYS, including information such as the fact that a high percentage of high school seniors in Warren County regularly use alcohol, but the students, and student advisor Ann Readshaw emphasized several times that no one is being targeted, and they are looking to the community to teach students leadership skills and help find positive answers rather than point fingers. They also wanted to make sure everyone knows that they are not “the behavior police,” a sentiment echoed by Wolfe.

She added, “It’s to help the kids understand its about individual decisions, and that the choices are on them.”

The 14 members of the YHS SADD organization are Jenna Bower, Kennedie Ebersole, Paige Wallace, Tobi Robinault, Gregg Yost, Samantha Irvine, Jerica Haight, Michelle Cantrell, Nikole Rook, Ellana Lewis, Samantha McAuley, Andy Lalwani, Jon Adams and Cody Haight.

The next Pennsylvania Youth Survey will be conducted this fall.

Students, parents, and all other community members are encouraged to attend.