TOPEKA, Kansas (WIBW) -- Students and school administrators from around the state came together in Topeka Thursday. They tacked strategies to keep teens from making destructive decisions at the SADD State Leadership Conference at the Ramada West Hotel.
They're trying to tell students that it's actually cool to not smoke, to not drink, to not make destructive decisions -- and you can have friends while you're making healthy choices.
Shayna McCall is president of her SADD chapter at Topeka's Highland Park High School. She says the mission is vital.
"Saving lives is important. It's a bigger cause we need more focus on."
Shayna was among teens from Kansas taking part in the SADD conference.
They participated in workshops, interactive activities and listened to motivational speakers. It's hoped that all this will make an immediate difference.
"As soon as they get back to their communities, they just need to get a jump-start on it, not wait around a couple weeks or a couple days," Shayna said.
SADD evolved into "Students Against Destructive Decisions" from "Students Against Drunk Driving" in 1997. The new moniker encompassed more than just teen drinking and driving, but gave a platform to promote alternatives to teen drug use, underage drinking, teen pregnancy, STD's, suicide and much more.
"Everything touching the lives of youth today," Kansas SADD State Coordinator Maria Torrez Anderson said.
She said kids are more aware of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
"They're telling their parents to stop smoking, to eat healthy. A majority of my kids here are in sports. That's what SADD tries to impose on the others, to say healthy lifestyles is your way to go."
Administrators want to motivate kids to making healthy choices by focusing on positives, not negatives.
One administrator said that in her school district, 83% of the teens are not drinking alcohol. It is points like that she wants other school administrators to focus on.
Marilyn Workman is a counselor at Wabaunsee High School. She said she's glad for the positives at her school.
"The positives in our small school district is they're very active in school activities," Workman said.
When kids have free time, that's what Workman says may be the negative.
"When we have these downtimes, what are they going to do - they're in a small town. That's where we need to provide as many activities as we can and to encourage them to make different choices. That's hard."
Workman says the most important thing schools can do for their students is to let them know they care, while motivating them to take steps in the right direction -- not drinking or doing drugs.
Administrators also talked about getting parents on-board with preventing destructive decisions. Something that they want to prevent is parents who host the parties, because they think the kids will be safer if they are at home.
Workman says SADD students from Wabaunsee High along with police officers go around to local liquor stores, posting stickers that warn of the Social Host Law. Parents who furnish alcohol or host alcohol parties in their house for minors will be held accountable. It is a Class A person misdemeanor and a minimum fine of $1,000 is imposed.
After the conference, the kids went to the Topeka capitol building, where 42 kids participated in a demonstration that represented the 42 youth killed in car crashes in Kansas over the past year.