Testimony of Jacqueline Hackett
February 11, 2004
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Subcommittee, Distinguished Panelists:
My name is Jacqueline Hackett and I am a senior at Souderton Area High School in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. I’ve been actively involved in Students Against Destructive Decisions since I was in eighth grade; first at the local level and now nationally where I serve on the executive committee of the SADD Student Leadership Council.
As a high school student, I’m very aware of the lifestyle and activities chosen by some of my peers. Friday night parties aren’t kept secret, nor is anyone left unaware of what happens at these events. The reality of high school life is that underage drinking is a very big deal and a serious problem that affects not only those who choose to use, but also others in the high school community and ultimately my entire generation.
Let me tell you a little bit about what SADD is and how it works. Since being founded in 1981 as Students Against Driving Drunk, SADD has been committed to empowering young people to “say no” to alcohol and other drugs, and encouraging young people to serve as role models in their communities. In 1997, in response to young people themselves, SADD expanded its mission and name, and now sponsors chapters called Students Against Destructive Decisions. SADD continues to endorse a firm “no use” message related to use of alcohol and other drugs. With its expanded focus, SADD now highlights prevention of all destructive behaviors and attitudes that are harmful to youth, focusing particularly on underage drinking, substance abuse, impaired driving, teen violence, suicide and depression.
Currently there are 10,000 SADD chapters in middle schools, high schools, and colleges around the United States with 350,000 active members and seven million students in the schools where SADD exists. Over the past 23 years, literally millions of people have gone through the SADD program, proving that SADD serves a necessary role and delivers a strong and unwavering message.
The efforts of SADD have been proven to work. An independent study conducted in the late 1990s showed that students in schools with an established SADD chapter are more aware of and informed about the risks of underage drinking, other drug use, and impaired driving. Students in schools with a SADD chapter are also more likely to hold attitudes reflecting positive reasons not to use alcohol.
Alcohol is the number one drug of choice among our nation’s youth. I won’t repeat all the statistics because I’m sure you know them, but here is just one. In 2002, there were more than 2,400 alcohol-related traffic deaths among 15 to 20 year olds, more than 200 teen lives lost each month to impaired driving alone.
Across the country, SADD is working to respond to this pervasive youth epidemic. Perhaps the most important reason that SADD works is that it’s about students talking to each other, using words and activities that are most likely to make a difference. After all, young people are the ones who actually drink the beer, put the key in the ignition or pile into a car with a friend who has been drinking in the driver’s seat.
SADD chapters provide information and education about the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol, but they also host alternative drug-free activities for students, mentor younger elementary and middle school students and reach out to other groups in the community such as law enforcement, the media and the business community. My chapter has held prom and graduation programs, offered dances as drug-free alternative events, and co-hosted a picnic with the local YMCA. SADD chapters offer a “safe haven” for those who have made the conscientious decision not to use. SADD students become alternative role models and continuously work to bring people together who believe in the “no use” message for youth and want to make a positive difference in their community.
All of the individual SADD chapters working together have a huge potential to present positive change in their communities. We need support though. We need more people to acknowledge our efforts and provide us with resources to implement effective programming. If in my state, the Pennsylvania Department of Education were to embrace the 550 Pennsylvania SADD chapters working on prevention efforts at the local level, link them with community coalitions and local law enforcement initiatives, and provide coordination services that magnified the energy and drive of fellow SADD students working within every school, there would indeed be a strong state-wide movement opposing the destructive influence of alcohol on our youth. With state support, not only in Pennsylvania but in every state in the country, SADD would be able to spread the message even further, implement effective prevention programming within the schools, and ultimately change behaviors and attitudes of youth across the United States. The underage drinking epidemic needs a strong oppositional movement to challenge the negative and risky attitudes of young people, and SADD is that movement. SADD students are the troops and they’re ready for the country to support them so they can win this war.
Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to speak with you today about this very serious problem that I am committed to addressing through my work with SADD. Underage drinking is dangerous and often deadly, and I urge you to rally behind students like myself and give us the support we need to continue the work we are doing everyday in our communities. SADD is a force that needs your collaboration and support.