Charlottetown. A panel of young people from different schools spoke during the provincial Realwomen convention in late September, about their efforts to make the world a better place.
Sixteen-year-old Angela Large, a Grade 11 student, represented Students Against Drinking and Driving (SADD), the largest and most active group in her school.
They use positive peer pressure to counter teen use of alcohol. Weekly meetings broaden their information base and strengthen their conviction that “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.”
This year SADD raised awareness through such activities as wearing black arm bands in memory of those killed in alcohol-related driving incidents. They raised money for special non-alcoholic graduation activities by selling memorial car ribbons, by a barbecue, fashion show, lip sync contests, and similar activities.
SADD is well received by the community. McDonalds sponsored their spring run fundraiser.
“I give my time to this because I want to make a difference in people’s lives,” Angela explained. “SADD makes a much greater impact than I could myself with the same values in just my own social group.”
Natasha Gallant, 17, and in Grade 12, enjoys judo, coaches figure skating, serves on her school’s Student Council, and hopes to be a doctor or a vet. She spoke about her involvement with Allied Youth, a community-based, rather than a specifically school-based group.
AY is an international program that originated in Pennsylvania in 1931, and is well known in Atlantic Canada, Eastern USA, and Texas. Nest year’s international meeting is in Toronto.
Except for having adult advisors, Allied Youth is youth-run. In PEI, it is considered important enough that responsibility for coordinating provincial activities lies with a Youth Coordinator in the government’s Division of Youth Fitness and Recreation.
Natasha explained that originally, Allied Youth aimed to teach young people to socialize without relying on alcohol, and to develop leadership.
Since then, it has further developed its drug education and leadership training components, and expanded its focus to include an emphasis on career choices, and community activities.
A member of AY’s Provincial Youth Board for five years, Natasha is very aware of its positive effect on members. As young people themselves do all the decision-making and take responsibility for the outcome, the effects spill over into all areas of their lives.
“We kind of become role models for our peers. We try to bring out in them what AY brings out in us. They must like what they see, because our post is growing every year,” Natasha summed up.
“Save Sex” was the motto on the t-shirt worn by panelist Rachel Broderick. The 19-year-old business administration student described her experiences as part of a Challenge ’94 team that spoke about chastity to over 30,000 young people in Eastern Canada this summer.
“People think they’re helping youth by handing out condoms and contraceptive pills. But they don’t talk about the emotional impact of premature sex. There’s no pill or condom for a broken heart, and the kids know it. That’s why they like our “Save Sex” motto, she said.
The Challenge project began in 1993 with a single 12-member team. Challenge ’94 reached youth in all provinces with two 12-member teams. They hope to have 48 team members in 1995; there is a waiting list of young people across the country eager to join.
It was obvious that eighteen-year-old Junior Rancourt, the one male on the panel, really enjoys life. That didn’t keep him from sharing many of the aspirations and concerns of the girls, or from participating in the same activities while in high school.
Following graduation, Junior chose to study at Maritime Christian College, instead of across the road at the University of Prince Edward Island.
“First, Jesus died on the cross for my sins, and I want to learn more about Him so I can live better. And second, some of what is going on today makes me sick and I want to learn how to defend myself against it, and how to fight it,” he explained.
Speaking about the tremendous slaughter of the unborn over recent decades, he said, “I believe life has high value, and I want to learn how to protect and promote it.”
Members of Realwomen found the remarks of the four young panelists so uplifting that they are trying to organize a repeat presentation on local television. Video copies are expected to be available for the use of interested groups.