DECATUR — Making good decisions as a young person is more than just avoiding drugs and alcohol.
At LSA High School, the Students Against Destructive Decisions chapter spent several weeks discussing what other decisions a young person is faced with and what kind of information their younger counterparts might need to choose wisely.
They came up with several situations: sleeping; eating; nicotine; alcohol; stress and mental health; distracted driving; drugs and vaping; and exercise. They showcased those situations and guidelines for making good decisions recently for the fifth- through eighth-graders at the Lutheran School Association, in an event they named “Body, Mind and Healthy Choices.”
Making good choices in all those areas leads to a healthy and well-balanced body and mind, said the group's faculty adviser, Michael Londos.
“We're doing this to show the kids that as they get older, they're going to come across decisions they have to make,” Londos said. “Are they going to cave in to peer pressure, cave into different things that can harm them, or are they going to know the consequences and know how to be strong to avoid those kinds of destructive decisions.”
At the distracted driving booth, the SADD members had a pair of the Fatal Vision goggles that simulate what a person who is intoxicated sees, and directed younger students to sit on wheeled platforms and try to “drive” while wearing those goggles. Of course chaos ensued, but amid the laughter, the SADD members explained how an impaired driver is not only putting himself in danger, but everyone else, too. They also included using a phone while driving, said Samantha Summers, a senior.
The younger students were handed a phone, if they didn't have one of their own, and instructed to try to navigate the course the SADD members had laid out while simultaneously texting. No one could manage it.
“I know a few people in my life that have been affected by (distracted driving), and I thought it was an important topic,” Samantha said.
One thing teens seem to excel at is sleeping, but siblings Thalassa and Eric Trickey did some significant research so they could talk about how important the various stages of sleep are. They created some activities that illustrated those stages.
The first stage, Eric said, is very light and the sleeper is easily awakened. The fourth stage, rapid eye movement, or REM sleep, is when people dream. The third stage is the really critical one, when real rest and rejuvenation take place, and if you skip that one, whether it's because of insomnia or being awakened by some outside force, you're going to be tired and lack focus the next day.
Another group chose stress and mental health and in order to give the younger students some tools to help them combat stress, they showed them how to do a few yoga poses.
“It's important that you find different coping skills,” said Maddie Vought, a junior. “Maybe listening to some music, playing sports, or maybe doing yoga.”
To show the students how upsetting stress can be, the students set up a wooden puzzle and asked one of the younger students to try to assemble it, while everyone else yelled at them. And even though the activity made them laugh, they also got the message that a constant barrage of stress makes them far less capable of doing a task.
“We just thought it was important to keep them informed about it. A lot of people grow up with (stress), and they don't understand what's going on," Maddie said. "They get stressed out and it's good to find different ways to manage it so it doesn't get to that dark point. You let things stack up that you're stressed out about it and you keep thinking you can handle it, but your foundation isn't steady, until you reach your breaking point.
"We want to tell them it's OK to talk to someone and find different ways that help you.”