The 2022 Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) national conference in Walt Disney World was held July 13-16 and the Whitehall SADD chapter was in attendance. New York Student Leadership Council member Louis Pratt spoke about the trip and how the group has gained ideas for this coming year.
“It was an amazing trip and we have so many great ideas to come back and do this coming year,” he said. “We got to see what other SADD chapters have done and we’re trying to find ways to implement them into our chapter.”
One idea the chapter hopes to get a move on this year is Quick Click Challenge. They hope to do their first before the fall semester begins. Pratt said he is working with Whitehall Recreation Center leader Genny Scott on having Safe Nights at the rec in August.
“You have four people racing back and forth between the start and the vehicle and they have to buckle their seat belt as fast as they can. It’s a demonstration of how a seat belt can save a life,” he said. “We hope to have some different Safe Nights throughout the year and we hope to do them more often.”
Pratt said there were many keynote speakers with moving messages that stuck out to the chapter. The speakers were Mykee Fowlin, Bill Cordes, A’ric Johnson and Sara Harberson. From college application help to mental health awareness, the Whitehall SADD chapter had plenty of information to take in.
“They were all great and were also really funny,” he said. “Even in A’ric Johnson’s introduction, he was making jokes about the apostrophe in his name and kicked the air to emphasize it.
“We want to network with other SADD chapters that we’ve been able to connect with at the conference this coming year. We’ve met people from Ohio, Georgia, Massachusetts, and even Vermont. We exchanged contact information, and we hope to work with them and stay connected.”
Pratt was helping in many ways at the conference and crowds even knew him by the end of the conference. He said he went on stage to hand off a spirit stick when the crowd started chanting his name.
“You meet a lot of great people at conferences like SLC and it really has opened up so many different doors of opportunity for us. We worked really hard this last year to build up our base with fundraisers and different projects with the post-it notes or the sticker shock and now we are starting to have a lot of ideas of where we can go with things from here,” he said.
The Whitehall SADD Chapter was able to sit in on a session with CBS’s Kris Van Cleave. When the room was asked about any aspiring journalists, Pratt said he threw his hand up as fast as he could.
“I told him about writing for my high school paper…he asked us about where we get our news and we all said Tik Tok. Rather than saying something like oh that needs to change, he talked about how they’re trying to find a format for bringing news to Tik Tok,” he said.
Pratt mentioned how empowering it felt to be in a room of like-minded young people that want to see change in their lives, schools, and communities. He said it’s groups like SADD that help educate communities on the ever-changing world.
“When adults say, ‘kids these days,’ what they don’t realize is that ‘the kids these days are going to change the world 10 years from now.’ There needs to be education about the LGBTQ, sexual assault, sexual abuse, and more because if there isn’t, there won’t be any change,” he said.
When in a room of 400 people for the SADD Talk about healthy relationships, Pratt said the crowd was asked if they or someone they knew had been affected by domestic abuse, and nearly every hand in the room was up. What came after shocked Pratt.
“They asked how many people in the crowd knew how to get or provide help to someone who has been involved with domestic abuse, only one hand up,” he said.
“If the tough topics parents don’t want their children to know about aren’t addressed when they are young, how are they supposed to know when they’re older how to help someone who needs it.”