Nearly 150 students for 11 area schools gathered for the Students Against Destructive Decisions 2014 conference at Fort William Henry in Lake George on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014. Miss New York 2013, Amanda Mason, was the guest speaker and worked throughout the conference to remind and motivate students to think and act to help themselves and others make positive life choices. (Derek Pruitt - email@example.com)
LAKE GEORGE -- Hudson Falls High school sophomore Nick Hall had difficulty with depth perception. A tennis ball he threw hit senior classmate Crystal VanNess in the head.
“I said sorry, and I meant it,” he said.
Hall’s movements were off because he was wearing a set of “drunk goggles” provided by Miss New York Amanda Mason. The glasses obscured his vision to simulate being legally drunk with a blood alcohol content of at least 0.08 percent.
“It was blurry, and it was like I had four eyes,” he said.
The demonstration was one of the activities at Wednesday’s Students Against Destructive Decisions conference in the Fort William Henry Conference Center. Nearly 150 students from 11 area schools attended the event, which was organized by the Council for Prevention.
Mason said physical changes are just one side effect of drinking. The loss of inhibition and mood swings can also occur.
“What are the effects it’s going to have on you and your dream?” she asked conference participants.
Mason said her motto was D.R.E.A.M., which stands for determination, respect, evaluation, accountability and motivation.
She was determined not to let obstacles such as drugs or alcohol hinder her dream of becoming an opera singer.
It is important to have respect for yourself and others, she said.
Evaluation means analyzing a situation. She recalled an incident during her freshmen year of high school when she was at a party.
“Within five minutes, my classmates were drinking alcohol. They were smoking pot. Before I knew it, they had an entire bag of prescription drugs being passed around,” she said.
Mason left he party. She encouraged her classmates to do the same, saying it’s cool not to do drugs or alcohol.
Accountability means taking yourself and others to task, according to Mason. If students see a friend has passed out because of alcohol, they need to call 911. Don’t get in a car with a someone who is going to drink and drive, Mason added.
The final part of her motto is motivation, because sometimes people may not want to get up and go to school. She said it is important to keep a positive attitude to move closer to your dream.
Excessive drinking can kill, Mason said, citing an incident of a football player from her school who drank too much at a party.
“He was in a coma for two days and almost lost his life to alcohol poisoning,” she said.
Mason asked students about the consequences of smoking marijuana.
“Like any drug, it impacts your ability to judge,” said Skyler Heller, vice president of Hadley-Luzerne’s SADD chapter.
Mason also said people should only take drugs prescribed for them. She held up a clear plastic bag of candy, pretending it was a bag of drugs.
“If this pill could kill you, and you don’t know what it is or what the dosage is, would you give it to your friend?”
“No,” shouted the students.
Approximately 2,500 youths every day try prescription drugs for the first time, Mason said.
Students also got to paint inspirational messages on small canvasses.
This is the 11th year for the conference, according to Amanda West, prevention services coordinator for the Council for Prevention.
“The purpose is to bring students together, to be able to raise awareness, to highlight the good work students are doing in their own schools and in the community,” she said.
Hall said he enjoys being involved with SADD. His group puts up posters around the school warning of the dangers of drugs and alcohol.
Junior Isla McGlauflin, of Lake George, said her school has a “Grim Reaper Day,” when the SADD members pretend one of them dies about every 53 minutes to represent another victim of drunken driving.
Salem High School junior Rebecca Butler said she was inspired by Mason’s words.
“I think it’s great that she told us you can still be awesome and cool, and you don’t have to do any drugs or alcohol,” she said.
February 12, 2014 5:00 pm • MICHAEL GOOT -- firstname.lastname@example.org