SADD has been around for over a decade and is aimed at educating young adults and preventing issues such as substance abuse, bullying and mental health from becoming larger problems.
Planning the SADD events takes months of preparation and a lot of community support says CED Substance Abuse Coordinator, Ava Gregory.
“We started working immediately after the SADD conference last year to get this together,” said Gregory. “It has been a grassroots effort to get funding for these events and community support has been great. Students in this area really benefit from having these activities.”
Centre Mayor Tony Wilkie commended the efforts that everyone from the CED prevention staff, community members and the county commission has put in to make this event available for the kids of Cherokee County.
“I would like to thank everyone involved for the countless hours of work that go unnoticed,” said Wilkie. “All the work put in makes things like this possible.”
The Wednesday event had plenty of creative entertainment as well as important messages for the seventh and eighth grade students in attendance.”
Starting off the day with his talk was Ken Carter. Carter gained recognition in the late 90’s when he suspended play and practice for his championship basketball team at Richmond High School.
Carter suspended play due to the poor grades some of his players were receiving. His message to the youth focused on having goals for oneself and learning discipline to achieve those goals.
On the entertainment side of things, versatile comedian Craig Tournquist provided laughs with his comedy and musical parodies. Tournquist has been working with SADD for several years and will enjoy hosting his 13th SADD national conference this year.
According to Tornquist, he first starting using comedy as a form of mentoring when he operated an inner-city teen center in his native Michigan.
“I learned a long time ago that kids this age like being the star of the show,” said Tornquist. “ It takes them about 10 minutes to trust me, but the more I get them involved the more engaging it is.”
It wasn’t all laughs as the serious subjects of mental health and suicide prevention were addressed by Kim Womack. Womack works for the Department of Social Work at Jacksonville State University and in association with CED.
“Suicide is the third leading cause of death among the seventh to eighth grade age group,” said Womack. “It’s startling statistics like this that will grab not only kid’s, but also adults’ attention.
Womack pointed out the warning signs that young people often display when having trouble with depression and suicidal thoughts. According to Womack, any number of things can contribute to a young person feeling suicidal and many times it is bullying that can cause these these suicidal thoughts. The issue of bullying has been a hot issue for the past several years due to not only in-school bullying, but also cyber bullying.
Phillip Gramling addressed this issue with his presentation. Gramling has worked as a licensed counselor for over a decade and works closely with the youth of Cherokee County. “With most everyone having the internet and cellphones, bullying can take place just about anywhere,” said Gramling. “This is an issue the juvenile court system takes very seriously and we’ve had a lot of support from them.” Gramling encouraged the students to report bullying and show an adult any harassing messages they have recieved via text or social media websites.
It wasn’t just adults doing the talking, however. Tyler Hunter, 17, and Josh Jacobs, 18, spoke to the crowd about their experiences with being a young adult.
“This was my first year to speak in front of everyone,” said Jacobs. “I think it’s easier for the kids to listen to us because a lot of them know us.”
“It really has a chance at getting through to some of them,” added Hunter. “All of these efforts are to aid in the prevention of issues that may become more difficult to deal with later in life.”
“Prevention saves lives,” concluded Gregory. “It can increase the quality of life and it does.”