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ISSUE 116 VOL 9 PUBLISHED 11/15/2002

Anti-drinking organization inaugurated

By Jane Dudzinski
News Editor


Friday, November 15, 2002

St. Olaf recently became the first college campus in the state of Minnesota to have a certified chapter of MADD. SOMADD (St. Olaf-Mothers Against Drunk Driving), as the organization is called, is the second college chapter in the United States.

Julia Drake ’04 is the president of the organization, and has been working since the spring of 2001 towards this goal of becoming officially certified. She and Lauren Wendt ’04, the vice-president, decided to get involved with the program after four St. Olaf students were killed by drunk drivers that same year.

"We decided to do something about it," said Drake. "We lived in the same dorm as [the students killed], and sensed the loss."

In order to become certified, the group had to write a constitution, bylaws, elect officers, become approved as a student organization and find a campus adviser. They also had to research MADD’s mission and Rice County statistics, said Kathy Cooper, the vice-president of Youth Development of the Rice/Scott County MADD chapter.

"I think that organizing SOMADD is a very fitting tribute to the four St. Olaf students that were recently killed by drunk drivers," said Cooper. "I hope that the parents and families of these students will find some comfort in knowing that St. Olaf students cared enough about their children to make a difference in the lives of others."

Drake presented the application to the Executive Board of MADD Minnesota on Oct. 5, where it was unanimously approved. The group became official on Oct. 24.

"I think that SOMADD, as a campus-based student organization, is in a unique position to address alcohol problems and to pass MADD's knowledge and strengths on to today's generation of activists," said Cooper.

St. Olaf has become a pioneer on the alcohol awareness front, as drunk driving continues to be a significant problem across the country. According to www.madd.org, 17,448 people were killed by drunk drivers in the U.S. last year.

"It’s an exciting opportunity to be a leader in the field of alcohol awareness and the dangers associated thereof," said Renee Sauter, director of the Wellness Center. "Now we are a leadership model for other schools who want to get involved."

Next week MADD is having one of its biggest series of events in honor of MADD’s Chemical Health Week in Minnesota. There will be a crash car on campus for the entire week between Holland Hall and the Science Center beginning on MADD Monday, Nov. 18.

Cooper will also give a talk during Community Time on Nov. 21 in the Science Center, relating her personal experiences with drunk driving. Her own daughter was killed by a drunk driver, and the car on display is the one her daughter was in.

Already this year SOMADD has been active on campus in many different ways. They collected 540 student pledges against drinking and driving, which they created into a "Chain of Life," that hung in the Buntrock Commons above the mailboxes.

The group’s main goals are to increase their membership and promote awareness of SOMADD and the issue of drunk driving on campus.

"We want people to get to know us," said Drake. "One big issue is that it’s not just mothers—anyone can be involved. We chose that specific organization because we liked the MADD support network, and they really wanted us to succeed."

Sauter also encouraged anyone interested to join their group.

"Anyone who wants to see drunk driving eliminated from the streets is welcome," said Sauter.

In the future, the group plans to sponsor a nation-wide poster contest for the Northfield Middle School and decorate a Christmas tree solely with red MADD ribbons.

Other SOMADD members include Sarah Hartmann, treasurer, and Renee Sauter, the faculty advisor in the Wellness Center. Their membership is about 25 students at this time.

"It has been really exciting because it has been such a process," said Drake. "Now we look forward to forming an even larger group."





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