Group touts better decision making

Members of Denham Springs High School’s Jackets Against Destructive Decisions organization are making their message clear about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

The group, which condemns the use of alcohol and drugs, has been chosen as the Students Against Destructive Decisions National Chapter of the Year. The award is presented to the best, most effective SADD chapter, said Penny Wells, SADD Inc. president and chief operating officer.

The honor, comes as a surprise to many of the group’s 200 members, but not to JADD sponsor and Denham Springs High English teacher Shannon Donze.

“I think what they’ve learned is that there is a place that you can have a good time without alcohol,” Donze said. “Many students are figuring out that these (JADD members) are the cool kids.”

Donze said she is proud of the members and is thankful that they have been acknowledged “for being the kind of teens they are.”

Denham Springs High School’s JADD was chosen from numerous applicants, Wells said.

“Denham Springs High School SADD exemplifies our idea of a successful SADD chapter and indeed, of the power of young people to make a difference in their community,” Wells said. “Our panel of judges found particularly impressive your chapter’s varied and comprehensive schedule of activities, your chapter leaders’ creativity and commitment to fully utilizing chapter members’ talents, your chapter’s persistent pursuit of improvement in chapter effectiveness, your enthusiasm and sense of fun, and finally, your commitment to the SADD mission and principles.”

“We believe your chapter has much to offer as an example to SADD chapters across the country,” she said.

In her application, JADD sponsor Elise LeBlanc listed multiple reasons why she felt the group should be chosen as the National SADD Chapter of the Year.

“We focus on recruiting members and making sure everyone feels welcome as soon as school starts, and we put members to work as soon as possible,” LeBlanc said. “We do an excellent job of matching student abilities/interests to programs, but also make sure our members grow as they work on our projects.”

The Denham Springs High JADD members are football players, special needs students, JADD alumni and students from other organizations and campus groups, she said.

Some of their biggest events are the Prom Fashion Show, Breakfast with Santa, and the Homecoming After Party.

In addition to hosting numerous events each year, JADD’s main purpose is to teach the community about the dangers of destructive decisions in ways that are informative, engaging, and relevant, LeBlanc said.

“JADD members put their words to actions in order to inspire others to live sober and drug free,” she said.

JADD Vice-president Austin Rogers, 16, said it’s the second time the club has received the honor for getting the message out about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

“It’s a place to voice our opinion,” Rogers said.

The members are now working with the National SADD organization and will soon start Livingston Parish SADD in an effort to fill the void left when statewide SADD disbanded.

The goal, LeBlanc said, is to spread JADD’s work throughout the parish and then to branch out to neighboring parishes. Members have attended Livingston Parish Council meetings, the Livingston Parish Expo, and are still scheduling meetings with Louisiana Highway Safety Commission.

JADD members will be honored for their achievement at the SADD National Conference June 22 to June 25 in Orlando. The chapter also will receive $500.