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SADD SPEAKs: Students Working for Safety

Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) is an organization dedicated to empowering youth to successfully confront the risks and pressures that challenge them in their daily lives. SADD students share what they learn with their peers through engagement with local chapters in their schools and communities. SADD has been in existence for 35 years, has chapters in all 50 states, and has changed lives of thousands of teens and countless parents.

One of the main goals of SADD is to give high school students the tools to be advocates in their schools and for the future. Beyond what state and local chapters do, SADD provides an opportunity for select SADD students to join an advocacy-training program called SADD SPEAKs (Students for Policy, Education, Advocacy, & Knowledge).

This year, SADD SPEAKs was held July 12-15 in Washington, DC. Fourteen students from 11 states spent four days learning valuable skills and helping the national organization through a special advocacy-training institute. Their focus was on traffic safety. Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among teens, and SADD students have made it their goal to make sure their communities aren’t affected by a tragedy like so many others each year. The students who attended SADD SPEAKs went home with a new understanding of public policy and the knowledge and skills to be advocates and leaders to make our nation’s roads safer.

One of the highlights of SADD SPEAKs was a Capitol Hill briefing for Congressional staff and members of Congress that was held on July 14. Speakers included the National Highway Transit Safety Administration Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind,’s President and CEO Ralph Blackman, and several students who spoke about the ways they and their peers are improving the safety culture in their hometowns.

Administrator Rosekind noted, “Rarely if ever are there headlines when people don’t die. We’re always talking about the losses.” While many of the SADD SPEAKs students were motivated to join SADD after an alcohol-related crash or underage drinking incident took the life of a friend of family member, they each believe strongly that they can save lives. They have done just that. The students explained the steps they are taking to encourage safety, especially seatbelt use and impaired driving prevention. They have been outside their schools at the end of the day and after sporting events, checking every car to make sure the occupants are buckled up. They are taking the future of traffic safety seriously and doing everything they can to make a difference. The entire SADD SPEAKs briefing can be viewed at

Devin Burke joined in 2011 and immediately became interested in the organization’s many programs and issue areas, especially those related to judicial education. Devin also works with State and Federal elected officials to host and promote educational events around the Ask, Listen, Learn and IKnowEverything programs in middle and high schools across the country and annual events on Capitol Hill.

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