Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), the nation’s premier school-based, peer-to-peer prevention, education and activism organization, hosted its fourth annual youth advocacy institute in July, and Crichanni Watson of Royal Palm Beach High School was one of the 14 students selected to attend.
The SADD SPEAKs (Students for Policy, Education, Advocacy and Knowledge) Institute was held in Washington, D.C., and SADD’s partners at State Farm and the National Road Safety Foundation sponsored the program.
Car crashes are the top killer of teens, and teen drivers are involved in fatal crashes at three times the rate of older drivers. In response to these statistics, Congress passed a highway bill in 2012, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century or MAP-21, which for the first time ever includes “teen traffic safety” as a specific focus of highway safety dollars provided to each state.
“Teens across the nation are directly affected by the policies that our elected officials enact. Our voices are a necessary piece in the fight for traffic safety,” Watson said. “It is our responsibility to speak up, at all levels of government, to ensure that the safety of our peers is a priority.”
As a participant in SADD SPEAKs, Watson and 13 other youth leaders received online training in transportation policy, basic advocacy and media skills, and the legislative process, particularly as it affects teen traffic safety.
This training served as preparation for a unique four-day trip to Washington, D.C., July 20-23. In D.C., the SADD ambassadors met with congressional staff focused on transportation policy and participated in a briefing on Capitol Hill for congressional staff, federal agencies, national partners and other interested parties.
“Teen voices are critical in solving the issues that young people face on a daily basis, especially teen traffic safety. SADD SPEAKs equips students to advocate on behalf of themselves and their peers, a lifelong skill that will ensure that teen health and safety remains a national priority,” SADD National President & CEO Dawn Teixeira said. “If we want to bring about real change, teens must be part of the solution.”
Watson and other teen advocates now plan to put their new skills into practice by working to influence state and federal policy at the local level. They will also lead SADD’s efforts to mobilize students across the country to become effective advocates for teen traffic safety programs by hosting a series of webinars, teaching SADD students from across the nation basic advocacy skills.
ABOVE: Crichanni Watson at the SADD SPEAKs Youth Advocacy Institute.