SEVIER COUNTY - Gatlinburg-Pittman High School sophomore Kameron Ogle took the initiative to bring a national teen prevention program called Students Against Destructive Decisions to her high school.
SADD is a nationwide program, and is represented in all 50 states. The program addresses a number of issues like traffic safety, substance abuse, suicide, depression, bullying, violence and body image, among others.
This is the first time GPHS has had an active chapter of the program.
"My mom works with the health department and is a nurse. She tells me what can happen to teens, and people don't take it seriously. It's really scary," said Ogle.
March 16 was the first day of SADD at GPHS. Ogle, the school resource officer, a representative from the Sevier County Health Department and her mom, Nicole, spent both lunch periods encouraging students to sign up.
"We are very proud of Kameron," said Nicole Ogle. "We're pretty strict. I think she's heard that a lot at home and wants to pass that along."
Tennessee SADD Coordinator Julie Strike said some high schools across East Tennessee have SADD chapters, but she would like to see more active chapters. Strike said Knox County Schools, the largest school system in East Tennessee, has no active chapters.
At Gatlinburg-Pittman, the issue the SADD chapter is tackling first is their biggest.
"Students have issues with tobacco. I think that's fairly common in rural East Tennessee," said Tony Ogle, the school's principal.
The Sevier County Health Department's most recent data shows 29.9 percent of teens use some type of tobacco. Kameron Ogle said students at GPHS use "dip" or smokeless tobacco the most, and that e-cigarettes are also popular.
"A lot of teens think e-cigs are cool and don't realize how damage is done to their bodies," she said.
Tobacco use is not the only issue this group will work to fight against. They'll also work to stop underage drinking, texting and driving and opioid abuse, among other things.
"There are dozens of issues you could rattle off very quickly that a group like this address, as part of that avoiding making destructive decisions," said Tony Ogle.
Kameron Ogle's staff sponsor for this group is School Resource Officer Sharon Atchley. She works with the Gatlinburg Police Department.
"Some of the kids have fallen into things. I hate it," said Atchley.
Atchley said tobacco, drinking and marijuana are issues she sees most frequently. She and Principal Ogle said there are few problems at GPHS.
"We're very lucky here at GP. Our student body is a really good group of kids," Tony Ogle said.
On the first day, dozens of students signed up.
"I thought for sure 20. I didn't think this many people would sign up," said Kameron Ogle.
Ogle hopes more students join the chapter.
If you would like to start a SADD chapter at your school, you can contact Julie Strike the Tennessee SADD cordinator.
Tennessee Website: www.saddtn.org
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