March 20, 2015

Featured in: The Post Star

Story by: Michael Goot

Link to article found here: :


SARATOGA SPRINGS — High school sophomore Haley Demers stood in front of the lecture hall with her head down and fidgeting.

“Hi, I’m Haley. This presentation is about presentation skills,” she said in a quiet mumble.

Luckily, Demers is an actress and she was playing a role — showing how not to speak to group — especially if you are trying to convey a message against alcohol and drugs.

Demers is with Youth 2 Youth, a student-based drug, alcohol and tobacco prevention program from Dover, New Hampshire. Members of the group were the featured presenters Thursday at the 33rd annual Safe Spring conference at Skidmore College. About 280 students from all 12 school districts in Saratoga County participated.

The event is organized by The Prevention Council with funding from Saratoga County Stop DWI. The Prevention Council’s director, Janine Stuchin, said the goal is to train and empower students so they can be informed about alcohol and drug use prevention.

The conference is conducted at this time of the year so students can bring the message of making smart choices back to their schools in time for prom and graduation party season, according to Stuchin.

The day kicked off with a presentation about the dangerous effects of alcohol. Students must be experts on the topic because if they sound uneducated, they won’t make effective advocates, according to the group.

Among the negative effects of alcohol are loss of coordination, risk of accidents, loss of inhibitions, depression and possibility for addiction. The students said the industry glosses over these effects with advertising campaigns showing celebrities or attractive, vibrant people doing “cool” things. Warning labels are in tiny print.

The group also showed examples of print and media campaigns it has run, including campaigns to ban smoking in a public park and to put warning label stickers on alcohol beverages.

The students then broke up into various workshops. One stressed how to use your voice and body effectively to communicate your message. They talked about raising and lowering the pitch of your voice, slowing down, adding pauses, using movement and other nonverbal communication.

Dover High School sophomore Avery Munoz told the students to slow down when talking to a group.

“If the audience doesn’t have the words in front of them, it’s going to take them three times as long to understand what you’re trying to say,” he said.

Munoz enjoys being involved with the organization, because it offers a positive environment and great atmosphere. .

“They get the information, but we make it really fun. It’s kind of a social thing,” he said.

Students also got the opportunity to learn how pop culture influences underage drinking and to create their own public service announcement.

They could try out AT&T’s online simulator, which shows the dangers of texting and driving. Students had to drive the car and follow all traffic laws while attempting to read and send texts.

Ed Bergstraesser, director of external affairs for the company, said more than 6 million people have signed the company’s pledge not to text and drive.

“Texting and driving is just an epidemic. There are more than 200,000 accidents on the road as a result of distracted driving,” he said.

Devin Greenlaw, a senior at South Glens Falls High School, said he enjoyed the training.

“It’s very good to bring this stuff back to school and let other kids known what’s going on,” he said.

Greenlaw said he believes underage drinking is always going to exist, but it should be reduced as much as possible.

Senior Teyler Nassivera of South Glens Falls said she gained valuable communication skills.

“I want to focus on being able to stand up to my friends if they’re going to fall under peer pressure and help get them through difficult times,” she said.

Participating school districts included South Glens Falls, Corinth, Schuylerville, Ballston Spa, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, Edinburg, Galway, Mechanicville, Saratoga Springs, Shenendehowa, South Glens Falls and Waterford-Halfmoon.