The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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November 24, 2013

Club encourages pupils to make smart choices

JOHNSTOWN — A new program at West Side Elementary School is helping pupils make smarter life choices.

Lindsey Overdorff, an AmeriCorps tutor at the school, organized a SADD – Students Against Destructive Decisions – club for fifth-graders at the beginning of the current school year as an early intervention program.

“I wanted students to be informed about the effects of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, violence and other destructive behaviors,” she said. “I feel that the more the students are informed the better choices they will make.”

There currently are 36 fifth-graders who are active in the club.

“Students are really excited about this and they love doing the activities and being involved,” Overdorff said.

Pupils have already participated in a handful of activities including a pumpkin decorating contest for Halloween that had an anti-drug message to them such as “don’t get wrapped up in drugs” and was represented by a mummy.

Recently, a school assembly was held to start Red Ribbon Week and pupils put on skits where they were offered drugs or alcohol and acted out how they’d deal with the peer pressure.

“It was a chance for them to practice refusal skills, whether by making up an excuse, leaving or saying no and being strong,” Overdorff said.

Also at the assembly was a mother who lost her daughter when she was killed by a drunk driver.

“We wanted to show that the decisions we make can affect everyone,” Overdorff said.

Other Red Ribbon Week activities include crazy hair day and twin day, both incorporating the anti-drug and alcohol theme.

After the holidays, the school plans start a New Year’s resolution campaign that will focus on making healthy choices and being physically active.

In February, an anti-bullying program will be launched.

Overdorff said she’d like to see the SADD club expand next school year to include the fourth grade.

“Hopefully, students will have a better understanding of what is out there because they will be exposed to so many things and I want them be able to handle themselves,” she said.

Kelly Urban is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/KellyUrban25.

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