American Heritage Schools’ SADD Club Hosted MADD's “Power of You(th)” Presentation
In an effort to bring awareness of the dangers of impaired driving ahead of prom night and graduation, American Heritage Schools’ Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) Club hosted Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)’s impactful “Power of You(th)®” presentation for 11th and 12th graders at its Broward campus on April 12.
According to MADD, alcohol-related deaths jumped to more than 13,000 for the first time since 2006. 13,384 people were killed in alcohol-related traffic crashes in 2021 – that’s one person every 39 minutes and 37 people a day killed by someone’s choice to drive drunk.
During the “Power of You(th)” presentation, over 600 seniors and juniors from American Heritage Schools learned about the potentially deadly consequences of drunk driving, drugged driving and distracted driving. Students viewed a DUI exposition of what can happen if someone drives a car under the influence of drugs and alcohol. A DUI crash car, provided by A Superior Towing, was on campus for students to see first-hand examples of these dangers. Members from the Plantation Fire Department extracted mannequins from the mock car crash using the jaws of life tools while narrating the scene.
Leaders from MADD were in attendance including Tess Rowland, MADD’s National President and American Heritage Schools Alumna; Heather Geronemus, Walk Like MADD Fort Lauderdale Founder; Stephanie Murphy, MADD South Florida Program Manager; and Jennifer Walsh, MADD South Florida Affiliate Executive Director. Students heard impactful stories and words from Rowland, Murphy and American Heritage Schools’ SADD Club President Harlee Ross.
American Heritage Schools’ SADD Club, which was founded by Alumnus Harrison Ross in 2020, is a peer-to-peer education, prevention and activism organization dedicated to preventing destructive decisions, particularly underage drinking, other drug use, risky and impaired driving and more.
“Power of You(th)” is one of MADD’s programs that provides youth with research-based information on the dangers of underage drinking and other drug use. It aims to prepare youth with the tools to resist peer pressure and empower them to take the next step and influence their friends to make the right choices.
“It’s important for us to work with organizations such as MADD to educate our youth and bring awareness to the dangers of impaired and destructive driving, especially ahead of special celebrations like prom night and graduation,” said Dr. Doug Laurie, president of American Heritage Schools. “We couldn’t be prouder of our students who are involved in the SADD Club and helped bring this impactful presentation to our 11th and 12th graders.”
Participating in the “Power of You(th)” presentation is part of Rowland’s mission to change the misperception that MADD is an organization exclusively for parents. For decades, MADD has been invested in educating through prevention in an effort to save the lives of young people. Now, through a new initiative, Coalition 45, Rowland is taking MADD's youth engagement to the next level. Coalition 45 serves to spark urgency around the fact that 100% preventable deaths related to drunk and impaired driving occur in the U.S. every 45 minutes.
On May 4, 2021, Rowland was driving to her job as a television news reporter in Panama City Beach, FL when a suspected drunk driver with drugs in the car hit her head-on, causing severe, life-threatening injuries. First responders on scene said it was a miracle that she survived, and she is continuing to recover from physical and mental trauma caused by this crash. Rowland first became involved in MADD as a volunteer following the crash and recovery.
“It’s an honor to host the ‘Power of You(th)’ presentation at my Alma Mater,” said Rowland. “After being hit by an alleged drunk driver, I have become a fierce advocate working to ensure this 100% preventable crime doesn’t steal more lives and hope by seeing examples of these dangers first-hand encourages students to drive responsibly.”
In South Florida, the local MADD affiliate’s annual Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash Fort Lauderdale 5K has raised more than $3.5 million since it was founded in 2011 by Heather Geronemus, whose late father, Dr. Robert Perry Geronemus, was struck and killed by a drunk driver in 2009. The local South Florida Chapter will host its 12th Annual UKG & The Salah Foundation Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash Fort Lauderdale 5K presented by the Sheriff’s Foundation of Broward County and UBS. The event includes an in-person race on Sunday, May 7 starting near Huizenga Plaza in Fort Lauderdale, plus a virtual participation option. American Heritage Schools’ SADD Club will attend the race.