Chariho Community SADD Student Leaders Tackle Teen Safety Issues at Annual SADD National Conference

  • 29th annual SADD National Conference convened in Tysons Corner, Virginia, from June 22 – 25, concluding with a briefing on Capitol Hill and 60 visits with elected officials
  • Youth leaders from 32 different states gain new life skills to better prepare them as teen agents for change
  • Discover more about conference at or follow us on social media #SADDtakesDC

SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) leaders from the Chariho Community SADD joined 400 other youth role models and their adult advisors from around the U.S. at the 2014 SADD National Conference, June 22 – 25, at the Sheraton Premiere at Tysons Corner in Tysons Corner, Virginia. As the nation’s leading peer-to-peer youth education, prevention and activism organization, SADD empowers young people to lead initiatives in their schools and communities that will encourage prevention education and create a positive effect on the lives of their peers.  

During the conference, Rebecca & Dan Fitzgerald, Alexis Felicetti, Samantha Segar, Elizabeth Vazquez explored new prevention strategies, learned about advocacy and shared best practices to improve teen health and safety. This is the 1st year, students and advisors from the Chariho high school and community have joined hundreds of youth leaders representing the most active SADD chapters in 32 states at conference.

Dan Fitzgerald: It was an incredibly humbling experience to be exposed to students who are standing up and speaking out from all over the corners of the country.

Sami Segar: It was cool meeting people from all over the country and realizing that even though we had a lot of differences we were all very much alike. 

Since its founding in 1981, SADD has provided quality prevention education programming to thousands of chapters nationwide.  “Empowering young people and equipping them with the tools to inspire positive change are at the heart of the SADD National Conference,” said Penny Wells, SADD president & CEO. “It’s truly encouraging to see firsthand the dedication from chapter leaders and know that beyond the conference, thousands of young people will be changed for the better.”

The SADD Conference is unique in that it is planned and implemented by young people for young people. Through more than 40 youth- and adult-led workshops, motivational speakers, advocacy training, skill-building activities and shared best practices, attendees explored new ways to deal with critical issues facing teens today. Key topics included underage drinking prevention, driving and traffic safety; substance abuse; bullying; teen dating violence; advocacy; mental health well being and more. Each year, the curriculum aims to help teens recognize their own power to rise above negative influences, while networking opportunities allow them to learn from other student leaders about ways to best promote healthy and positive life choices among their peers and ultimately help save lives.  

With motor vehicle crashes remaining the leading cause of death among teens, the importance of educating young drivers about the dangers of risky, aggressive and distracted driving was also highlighted. TOYOTA’s TeenDrive365 distracted driving simulator, State Farm’s “Celebrate My Drive” program and several other traffic safety-related presentations were showcased. This year’s conference sponsors and supporters included TOYOTA, Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, State Farm,, DCH Auto Group, the DCH Auto Group Charitable Foundation, The National Road Safety Foundation, Abt Associates Inc., CARFAX, Inc.,, The Staples Foundation, and DARCARS Automotive Group.

The Conference Awards Ceremony recognized the stellar efforts of many who are making a difference in the lives of today’s teens in Virginia and around the country. A SADD Outstanding Contribution award recognizing established leadership and commitment in support of research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction was presented to Nora D. Volkow, M.D., Executive Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and a Special Recognition Award honoring demonstrated commitment in support of reducing teen traffic crashes, deaths and disabilities on our highways was presented to representatives from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, Highway Safety Office.

Conference culminated with a briefing on Capitol Hill which honored key U.S. legislators – Senators Amy Klobuchar, John Hoeven and John D. Rockefeller IV and Representative Albio Sires – for their leadership and dedication to teen traffic safety. Deborah Hersman, President & CEO, National Safety Council, was presented with an award for her longstanding commitment to teens and teen safe driving. SADD introduced its first National Progress Report highlighting the efforts of individual states to reduce highway fatalities among younger drivers. Following the briefing, the full conference participated in visits with their elected officials to address SADD’s legislative priorities on teen traffic safety and the importance of including the youth perspective in public policy and planning. 

About SADD

SADD, the nation’s leading peer-to-peer youth education, prevention and activism organization, is committed to empowering young people to lead initiatives in their schools and communities. Founded in 1981, today SADD has thousands of chapters in middle schools, high schools, and colleges across the country. SADD highlights prevention of many destructive behaviors and attitudes that are harmful to young people, including underage drinking, substance abuse, risky and impaired driving, and teen violence and suicide. Discover more at and follow SADD on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and YouTube. 




- Photo courtesy of the Richmond Police Department -



Chief Elwood Johnson & Superintendent of Schools Barry Ricci


On March 27th, 2014, a 14-year-old student of the Chariho Middle School was arrested on charges of (1) distributing a controlled substance in or near a school, and (2) possession of a controlled substance, after a joint investigation into an incident in which a teenaged Chariho Middle School student required medical attention.  The student experienced a reaction after consuming a “marijuana candy” that he/she had obtained on March 26th from the aforementioned 14-year-old suspect.  A small bag of the suspicious unlabeled hard candy was retrieved from the suspect, which was submitted for toxicology testing at the RI Department of Health.   

On March 27th, a 14-year-old student was arrested at Chariho High School on two (2) counts of possession of a controlled substance. School surveillance video taken in a hallway was reviewed and two (2) students involved in an apparent drug transaction were identified.  The above student was found to be in possession of two (2) 36-mg Concerta pills (methylphenidate HCl) for which she had no prescription, and another controlled substance in the form of an unlabeled hard brown candy.  The brown candy-like substance tested positive for traces of methamphetamine, but more conclusive toxicology testing shall be conducted at the RI Department of Health.  As a result of that investigation, on April 7th, 2014, a second 14-year old student from Chariho High School was charged with one (1) count of distributing a controlled substance in or near a school.  Investigation into this activity continues.

We are taking the unusual step of issuing a joint press release regarding these two incidents because of their unique, dangerous and unsafe nature.  The use of a candy-like item to conceal an illegal, controlled substance raises a number of significant concerns (see image).  Communication with the community to raise awareness is key to preventing unnecessary tragedies.

We are committed to doing everything possible to maintain a drug-free school environment, but need the assistance of the community, especially parents, to do so.  We call on all students and the entire school community to refuse the use of illegal substances, to live a healthy lifestyle, and to respect the educational environment as one reserved for teaching and learning.  We request that parents use this incident as a teachable moment to reinforce the expectation that illegal substances be rejected.  We will do the same here at school.

The Chariho Regional School District and the Richmond Police Department, along with other relevant agencies, will continue to cooperatively and collaboratively work together to keep our schools and our students safe. 


To assist parents and/or students who may be seeking support regarding substance abuse issues, we offer the following contact information for counseling resources at Chariho Regional High School and Chariho Regional Middle School:

Deirdre Murphy, LCSW  nida-teens-logo.png
Prevention Counselor
(401) 364-7778 x 2143

Terri Censabella, SAC
Prevention Counselor
(401) 364-0651

Additionally, resource information is available through the Chariho Task Force on Substance Abuse Prevention:

Contact person:

Kathy L. Gardner
DFC Grant Manager/Community Outreach
(401) 330-9592

The Chariho Task Force is a volunteer, working task force comprised of individuals who are interested in substance abuse prevention issues in the Charlestown, Richmond, Hopkinton and Narragansett Tribe communities.

Current Task Force members include school, prevention and treatment professionals, youth, parents, law enforcement, faith community, health care, youth organizations, business owners, media and local government. All members live and work in the Chariho region.

The Chariho Task Force has meetings on the second Monday of each month at the Chariho Middle School. Meetings are open to all interested community members.

The Chariho Better Health Forum 2014

“What Do You REALLY Know? Get the TRUTH”

• E-Cigarettes: Good or Bad?
• Marijuana: The Blunt Truth
• Surprise Honoring a Local Hero
• Matt Bellace - “Getting High Naturally”


Reserve Now
Chariho SADD

Chariho Task Force Objectives

Define alcohol, tobacco and other drug issues and their impact on our towns.

Work together to find effective strategies to prevent the use of or abuse of substances in our youth.

Collaborate with the school district, local government officials, health care providers and law enforcement organizations, and to develop and sustain substance abuse and violence prevention activities throughout the year.

Work with Prevention Practitioners in RI to develop and maintain best practice programs.

Establish positive community norms to prevent substance abuse through advocacy, education, parental programs and youth leadership opportunities.

Work with our schools, our communities and all students, and in particular, high risk students to provide effective education, support and alternative programming.