Empower. Engage. Mobilize. Change.


Members of SADD Club experienced the PA SADD State Conference held at Seven Springs in November.

Anne Dalton, Managing Editor

Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) Club’s mission is to empower youth to stand up to the risks and pressures from peers that dare them from living a positive lifestyle. SADD visions a world in which young people make safe and smart decisions despite any negativity surrounding them.

“Working with SADD is another opportunity for me to help create positive change in the world and reinforce positive decision making,” said Acacia Houck, SADD Club Advisor.

“Being in SADD has given me a better outlook on making healthy and safe choices that will help me to reach my goals for the future,” said senior Sara Majorsky.

Approximately 600 high school students from across Pennsylvania attended the annual PA SADD State Conference on November 5th held at Seven Springs in Champion, Pennsylvania.  Greater Latrobe sent four students under the guidance of Mrs. Houck to experience the conference. PA SADD honored the accomplishments done by schools within the state and awards were presented for Activity of the Year, Chapter of the Year, and Advisor of the Year.

The Cupid Shuffle and Cha- Cha Slide got everyone on their feet and filled the room with energy as the conference began.  

The hair queen activity was something fun to start the day as five girls were selected along with one friend of their choice to go up on the stage.  The ‘stylist’ friend had five minutes to make the biggest hair by height and circumference using one mirror, a comb, and hairspray. Senior Shelby Dean accepted the challenge of not only going up on the stage, but by allowing me to mess up her hair entirely.  I struggled the most with trying to make it as voluminous as possible without hurting her.

Shelby Dean represented Greater Latrobe as she participated in the Hair Queen contest.

Afterwards, Keynote speaker Ty Sells led a presentation focused around The Power of Acceptance. He works for Youth to Youth International, a drug prevention/ leadership program, and has spoken to young adults in every U.S. state as well Germany, Japan, Canada, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and Italy.

His powerful words concentrated on the positive side of being alcohol, tobacco, and drug free rather than stating the facts and statistics of what doing drugs can do to someone. Sells wanted students to reflect on how they treat their peers and those around them no matter what race, gender, religion, or political affiliation.  He challenged students to go after their goals and be the best version of themselves despite what anyone tells them. There is no denying that he made every single person in that room laugh, but also aimed to express five important points:

  • It is perfectly acceptable to make the choice to stay or become drug free.
  • The way we treat others can influence the choices that they make.
  • Cool always change.
  • Knowledge isn’t power, it’s potential power.
  • It’s what we DO with the things we learn where the true power.

“Ty Sells message was really powerful,” said Houck.  “You see so many judgments and stereotypes in today’s society and I think our entire student body could benefit from hearing his message.”

The students had the opportunity to choose to go to three workshops out of the six total.

  • Minding Your MindA personal story regarding the struggle of mental illness was told by Jordan Burnham.  Adjusting to a new school was difficult enough for him as a high school student, not to mention his sister leaving for college at the same time. After being bullied for wearing suits to school and “acting white,” he felt that there was no one for him to talk to about his feelings. This led him to become someone he was not by playing sports and becoming Class President.  All of these changes took a toll on him and he began to have a drinking problem, but was able to go to a rehab/mental hospital to get help. He was diagnosed with depression and would not take his medicine. His parents thought he was recovering until they found alcohol in his closet. During his senior year of high school, he survived a suicide attempt after jumping out of a nine story building.  He has been speaking on his story of mental health and overcoming adversity to young teenagers all across the country.
  • Traffic Safety BINGOTraffic Safety Bingo was an interactive game full of trivia questions on traffic laws and statistics.  PA TIPP, Mary Lakari, led the students in a fun workshop about being safe on the road. The competitive game definitely tested the teenagers on how much they really knew being a new or future driver.  The facts were informative and provided insight on being a safe driver and respecting the law.
  • Marijuana Myths De-Bunked Myths– The legalization efforts of marijuana across the country were discussed as well as the effects to the body both physically and mentally.  Youth Advisor at Hempfield High School Bill Yoder cleared up the myths that may be heard about how and when marijuana is safe. The use of marijuana for medical purposes vs recreational is a continuous discussion among teens and even adults.
  • Text Less Live More– With the continuous advancement of technology, devices are becoming more interactive and may be one of the biggest distractions among people today.  Maria McGrath discussed the pros and cons of cell phone use and students realized the benefits phones have, but also the in-person social interaction the device has taken away.  Having both eyes on the road at all times is important not only for your safety, but the safety of others. It only takes one second for an accident to happen. This year on Thanksgiving, SADD is taking on the challenge of going “cold turkey” by having phones down and gratitude up.
  • Penn Trafford SADD Chapter & Sage’s Army– Two of Penn Trafford High School students in SADD club partnered with Sage’s Army last year at a football game to bring awareness about addiction.  The students released 174 balloons in memory of the Westmoreland County residents who died of drug overdoses in 2016.  Sage Capozzi was a young man who lost his life to addiction and his family strives to spread the message of having hope and seeking help.  Sage’s father, Carmen Capozzi, spoke about his son’s story and one of his team members shared her story of addiction as it left her in jail and allowed her to have no custody of her children for a few years.
  • Pennsylvania’s Drug Culture– Office of Attorney General Robert Reed concentrated on the abuse of prescription drugs used by teenagers.  The reality is that substance abuse is a growing problem as Pennsylvania is one of the highest states in overdose death rates.  Fentanyl is the leading drug causing overdoses along with heroin, cocaine, prescription opioids, benzodiazepines, and other illicit drugs.

“I really enjoyed the Minding Your Mind presentation. Jordan Burnham’s story was very compelling and introspective,” said Majorsky.

The program ended with THINKFAST Interactive, which was a trivia game where students had the ability to compete among the various schools present.  Questions ranged from pop culture to facts about the effects of drugs.

“The conference left a huge impact on me,” said Majorsky. “I had time to consider valuable life lessons, how the choices you make will not only affect yourself, but the people around you, and how important it is to treat others with compassion regardless of their differences.”

“Any chance for students to be outside of school for a day allows them to see different perspectives and gain new insight that they can bring back to Greater Latrobe,” said Houck.

The PA SADD Conference is designed to impact the minds of young people in a positive way and leaves a long lasting impression in influencing good decisions.