Students Against Destructive Decisions: Interview with Natalie Hayford

Allstate Agent Greg Sniezek

Natalie Hayford is a young woman on a mission-- she wants to help spread the word about SADD, a group dedicated to helping teens make the right decisions when it comes to drugs, alcohol, suicide and depression. Find out how this Allstate Foundation's Teen Driving Activist of the Year's efforts have changed one school and how you can make a difference in yours.

What is SADD?

It stands for Students Against Destructive Decisions and it aims to educate and empower youth to make good decisions in their lives. Originally, it only focused on saying no to drinking and driving. However, the peer-to-peer organization expanded their mission. Chapter members are chemically free and dedicated to preventing destructive decisions, particularly underage drinking, other drug use, impaired driving, teen violence, and teen depression and suicide.

Interview with Natalie Hayford

How did you become involved with SADD?

I first found out about it as a first grader in elementary school when members of the organization gave a presentation to my class. Then as I entered high school as a freshman, a friend of mine and I attended a meeting. I have gone to their meetings ever since.

What does your SADD chapter typically do each year?

I belong to the Anoka High School, Anoka, Minnesota chapter; we complete many activities throughout the year. Each month we select a topic to educate our peers about, which include:

  • Alcohol decisions
  • Drug use
  • Tobacco use
  • Suicide & depression
  • Teen driving

Some of the projects that we do include:

  • Distribute 3,000 Don't Drink & Drive red ribbons at the City of Anoka Halloween Grand Day Parade attended by 30,000 people
  • Presentations to first grade classes
  • STAND: Students Talking About Not Drinking presentations to 9th grade classes (900 students per year), using the film, Drinking, Driving, and Disaster
  • Prom and graduation season:
    • Ghost Out: One high school student dies every 33 minutes from a drunk driver, equaling 12 students during a school day
    • Crash car on display from an alcohol related accident
  • Various activities to reduce teen reckless driving

Does your group do anything for the community during the summer?

Members of Anoka High School chapter have attended the National Conference since 2005. Members bring back ideas and activities that will be used during the upcoming school year.

What did you do to earn a nomination for the Allstate Foundation Teen Activist of the Year Award?

I wasn't even aware that I had been nominated for The Allstate Foundation Teen Activist of the Year Award. My advisor asked if she could put my name in for a few things and I just told her that was fine. I guess she just felt that my enthusiasm and willingness to participate in every facet of the teen and reckless driving project was worth a nomination. She felt that I really took the lead for the duration of the project and helped bring it to fruition.

How does your chapter teach others?

My chapter does many activities throughout the year to teach others. We also use the Seven Prevention Strategies established by National SADD to increase the effectiveness of our activities:

  • Policy
  • Enforcement
  • Communication and media
  • Education
  • Community collaboration
  • Alternative activities
  • Early intervention

We focused on collaboration and using it to reach out to many groups in our high school and community. Some of the groups we have collaborated with are:

  • Other school clubs and sports
  • The University of Minnesota
  • Local cable station QCTV
  • Local newspapers
  • Local police
  • Minnesota Judicial Branch
  • Minnesota Safety County
  • Allstate
  • AAA

What project did your group do to win 2nd place in the Activity of the Year Award?

Each year the organization chooses first, second, and third places winners for the Activity of the Year Award. The project that Anoka High School submitted was about teens and reckless driving. Our mission was to educate Minnesota teens and their communities about reckless driving, and to empower teens to make good decisions while driving. "SPEAK UP… Against Reckless Driving," is what we wanted to encourage teens to do if they felt unsafe while riding in a car with someone -- for example, not wearing their seat belt, speeding, or text messaging while driving.To get our message out we did a variety of different things, including:

Student Body Awareness: ­

  • Members created posters and signs that were hung all over Anoka High School
  • Announcements were broadcasted on our daily news program

Web Site:

  • I created a website in my HTML class about facts and statistics about teen driving, along with other resources and activities

Feature Friday:

  • A weekly TV show created by Anoka High School students that is shown to all of the student body on Friday afternoons
  • Chapter members wrote "Speak Up" scripts to fit Anoka High School's students and the student actors gave the Anoka student body the ideas and words to use to promote safe driving

Public Service Announcements:

  • Anoka chapter members wrote to the University of Minnesota men's basketball Coach, Tubby Smith, asking him to appear in a public service announcement with Anoka High School students about teens and reckless driving
  • With our local cable station, QCTV, we created three thirty-second PSA's encouraging teens to "Speak Up" when one of their peers is not wearing their seatbelt, speeding, or text messaging while driving

The District Court Show:

  • A program produced by Judge Stephen Halsey and QCTV
  • The Anoka chapter asked Judge Halsey to cover the topic of teens and driving on his show
  • The Anoka chapter found three guest experts to speak to parents and the community about teens and driving for the first half of the program
  • The second half of the program Anoka chapter members talked about the activities we have done with the "Speak Up… Against Reckless Driving" campaign
  • The Feature Friday and the PSA's with Coach Tubby Smith were inserted into the show

The Anoka County Union Newspaper: ­

  • The Anoka chapter asked the editor to attend the taping of the District Court Show
  • The editor wrote a story about the issue and what we were doing that appeared in the March 31, 2008 edition

Has your chapter decided yet how to spend their $5,000 winnings?

The Anoka chapter will use the money from The Allstate Foundation to:

  • Produce a DVD about the new Minnesota teen driving laws
  • Create a new website that anyone can visit to learn about their Graduated Drivers License laws

We have obtained the domain name of teendriver411.com and will soon develop content for the site

"Teen Driver 411," will be our new tagline for this year and we will create new PSA's for TV and radio, create a MySpace page, and post on YouTube.

Has your group begun production of the DVD?

We will begin production at the beginning of the 2008 to 2009 school year. The DVD will focus on the new Minnesota teen driving laws and the ban on text messaging. We will also continue to focus on seatbelt use among teens and teen driving safety.

Is there a success story about your chapter that you would like to share?

Our chapter has accomplished a variety of different things that we are very proud of:

  • Educating teens
  • Increasing diversity in our chapter
  • Receiving awards, prizes, and recognition
  • Helping people to see that their actions have consequences and risks, and provoking them to think more carefully about what they do

==If a student wanted to start a chapter in their school, what should they do?==

They should contact National SADD through their website, SADD.org. Anoka High School is also open to the idea of being a mentor to a student in starting a chapter because we believe it's the most effective way to reach teens.

Students Against Destructive Decisions: Interview with Natalie Hayford