Ricky Birt, a 2009 graduate of Northwestern High School in suburban Springfield, was recently named 2009-2010 SADD National Student of the year. SADD, which stands for Students Against Destructive Decisions, is a national teen-led organization dedicated to helping teens make smart decisions when it comes to underage drinking, drug use, impaired driving, teen violence and teen suicide.
"When it came to SADD, I knew there was something different," Birt said. "It was all about teens helping teens. I felt like I could make a difference in this organization."
Birt certainly has made a difference through his involvement in SADD. He participates in the organization's Student Leadership Council, which organizes programs and activities and provides support to the approximately 10,000 SADD chapters throughout the United States.
Birt was also involved in the 2008 Prevention Convention, where he partnered SADD with leaders of the prevention field in Ohio to increase awareness of public safety and health. One of Birt's favorite activities was an event called Lights for Life, which he helped organize.
"It was a campaign that drew attention to the dangers of reckless driving," Birt said. "The event asked teen drivers to drive with their headlights illuminated all day on Dec. 5, 2008, as a testament that they would be responsible each and every time they took the wheel."
Birt has realized many rewarding experiences, learned many lessons, and gained a great deal of knowledge from his involvement with SADD. Perhaps one of his most gratifying experiences came from a mock accident that he helped organize in which he personally touched the life of another student.
"I had a student come up to me, tears in his eyes, and thank me for organizing a mock accident and funeral," Birt said. "He said that he had never thought about how his decisions had such far-reaching effects. That's what it's all about to me; letting teens see the facts for themselves and understand that we have to live with them beyond the moment and think about tomorrow. Even when they fall short, it's never too late to start making good choices."
While Birt has had a busy schedule due to his involvement with SADD, he has not let that effect his academics. He served as the student council president, National Honor Society president and a student tutor. Birt is proud of his high school success, but he acknowledged that significant new challenges await him at Wittenberg.
Not surprisingly, he feels prepared to meet them.
"I feel like I can grow academically and as a person at Wittenberg," Birt said. "The moment I walked on campus I knew I was home. Wittenberg was the only choice for me."
Birt intends to focus his studies on political science and communication. In addition to his studies, Birt plans to start a SADD chapter at Wittenberg.
"Recently, the number of SADD chapters at colleges has sky rocketed," Birt said. "I'm very excited about working with the administration and campus security to help keep the students at Wittenberg informed in making decisions they can live with."
Written by: Trent Brunic '10
Photo by: Erin Pence
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