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Paynesville Press - May 28, 2003

Students start new groups

By Michael Jacobson

Two new groups at Paynesville Area High School urge students to treat each other with respect and to avoid destructive decisions.

This year, under the guidance of chemical health counselor Diane Seegars, students at PAHS have started a chapter of Students Talk About Respect (STAR) and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD).

Most of the members of the two new organizations were already peer helpers, who offer mentoring to their fellow students and positive conflict resolution. STAR according to its dozen or so members means being nice, valuing friendships, eliminating hatred, being respectful, and appreciating differences between students.

Jessica Schwartz reading "These people are natural helpers," said Seegars. "These are the people who even before they were peer helpers were helping their friends."

In May, the high school students took their messages of respect and friendship to the kindergarten classrooms, when they read stories with appropriate messages to the youngest students in the district.

SADD is a new twist on the well-known organization. Originally focused on preventing drunk driving, the new organization has expanded to all life-threatening decisions, junior Jenn Terres told the school board in April.

This year, SADD organized a Kick Butt Day to urge students to quit smoking. They displayed unhealthy ingredients in cigarettes in the high school library and urged students to quit smoking or not to start.

SADD also had students take a pledge not to use alcohol or drugs during Fun in the Sun Day on Friday, May 23. "What we're trying to do is dispel the myth that a majority of students are using (alcohol or drugs)," said Seegars.

Ninth grader jessica Schwartz reads to a kindergarten class in May about nonviolence and understanding differences

SADD members also arranged to give away safety cards before prom, reminding teens to drive safe and be sober on prom night.

Sophomore Ashley Spanier is involved in both groups because she likes "being able to have an impact on peoples' lives and knowing you can help someone," she said.

STAR and SADD are only getting a small start this spring. Seegars who plans to come back to PAHS next fall, the first chemical health coordinator in three years to spend more than one year at PAHS hopes to do more next year, including a get-to-know-your-locker-neighbor campaign in the fall for STAR. This would allow students to "get to know someone they might not get to know otherwise," said Seegars.

The students want to have more activities and hopefully attract more student members next year.

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