The annual Students Against Destructive Decisions Leadership Conference took place Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017, at the Kallet Civic Center in Oneida. About 70 students and their advisors from different schools across Madison County attended.

Ty Sells, the keynote speaker from Youth to Youth International in Ohio, has more than 22 years’  experience in drug abuse prevention and community service. Through his talk titled “The Power of Acceptance,” he shared why he decided to be drug- and alcohol-free.

He encouraged teens to make healthy choices in regard to using substances, not dwelling on the negative consequences, but pointing out the long-term benefits. He also talked about how it is perfectly acceptable to make the choice to stay or become substance-free.

It is often unpopular to make positive choices about drugs, alcohol and tobacco, yet the students that are “cool” now have no problem promoting what they do. And he reminded students that what is cool always changes.

Sells also challenged students to look at the way they treat others who are different from them. Whether it is a schoolmate that sits alone at lunch every day or a basketball player with autism, the positive impact of inclusion is what makes a difference in making our schools a better place. The way that we treat others in school, at the mall or in our community, can influence the choices they make.

Marla Velky-Reger, social worker and fitness instructor, facilitated by guiding students to come up with individual action plans about what they learned from Sells. The students and their advisors worked to bring the message back to their schools by doing meaningful activities to spread positivity, acceptance and inclusion.

Some of the action plans included putting sticky notes all over the school with positive messages and inspirational quotes and having a Positivity Week involving the community with photos and signs in town posted to Instagram.

By martha

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