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S.A.F.E. Youth, local organizations present 'Choices Matter'

The New Richmond High School auditorium will play host to motivational speaker Chris Sandy on Monday, March 5, in the hopes of sending a message to local youth about making good choices.

"I think what makes him unique is that ... he has this real, authentic story to tell about what happened to him," said NRHS science teacher and S.A.F.E. Youth advisor Deb Swanson. "He is a very dynamic speaker and I think he will be able to create a connection with our kids. I think he will be well received by this age group."

Sandy specializes in alcohol awareness and has traveled to over 40 different states and spoken to over a million students, parents, educators and military service members.

"When Sandy was young he started experimenting with alcohol and at some point early in his life he was driving while intoxicated and killed an elderly couple. And it is my understanding that he spent a number of years in jail," Swanson said. "Our hope is that we can reach some students."

According to Swanson, Wisconsin has one of the highest fatality rates in the United States due to underage drinking.

"My brother-in-law was killed by a drunk driver and the girl that hit him started drinking in high school. Maybe had there been some kind of presentation like this for her at an early age, it might have prevented something tragic like this," Swanson said. "It is personal for me and I think a lot of students have some connection in some shape or form to some type of tragedy."

The presentation, which is free and open to the public, will start at 7 p.m. S.A.F.E Youth ambassadors will serve as greeters and help with ushering.

According to Swanson, the process of bringing Sandy to New Richmond started over a year ago when a donation was made to the First Lutheran Church of New Richmond.

"They thought it would be worth putting the money towards some kind of underage drinking or drug use awareness program for the youth," Swanson said. "They then got in touch with me and one thing led to another. I said it would be amazing if we could get somebody super dynamic in that hasn't been to New Richmond before and that has a really inspiring, tremendous story to share. However, to get someone like that, it was going to be quite spendy, and quite a bit more than the funds we had would allow."

Swanson, along with First Lutheran Church, reached out to First National Community Bank to see if they would able to help find the money to bring in someone like Sandy. The three organizations, along with Rotary International, found the funds to bring Sandy to New Richmond.

"I'd say the show is appropriate for high school age kids for sure, but I think it can be useful and appropriate for seventh and eighth graders since kids at that age are starting to experiment and see a lot more peer pressure," Swanson said. "I hope people learn about making good choices and that the presentation brings awareness to teens and young adults about this issue. Hopefully it will also challenge parents to have that conversation with their children."

Sandy will talk with the entire student body during a special presentation the following morning.

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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