At just 16 years old, Aarushi Dedhiya understands how important it is for youth to build healthy lifestyle habits to carry with them throughout life. Aarushi is a part of her local Students Against Destructive Decisions chapter at her Enola, Pennsylvania, high school where she advocates against drug, alcohol and vaping use. And her dedication to this cause goes beyond the local level — Aarushi is active at both the state and national levels with SADD. When she’s not working with SADD or writing an ebook for a mental health app, she also leads the anti-vaping curriculum as the national council president of Catch My Breath.
What inspires you to volunteer?
I wanted to make a difference in my community. As a high schooler, I wasn’t sure what to do at first. But then I realized that volunteering was a great opportunity for me to help people in my community, and to make a difference. Right now I’m mostly volunteering in a specific area, which is anti-drug, -alcohol and -vaping. The reason I’m doing that is because I know that it’s a large issue in my school and other schools. It’s very dangerous for the youth and I hope that I can make a difference and prevent others from taking these substances, and also promote healthy lifestyles among the youth.
Describe your volunteer role with SADD and the other organizations you’re a part of.
The first organization that I’m a part of is SADD, which stands for Students Against Destructive Decisions. I’m part of their local chapter, their state chapter and the National Council. I do different work in each level of the chapter systems. For the local level, It’s a part of my school. We make blog posts and keep the school community aware about these substances and how to choose a healthy lifestyle. At the state level, we’re helping create a conference with trainings and we’re also working on a video which has become our passion project to share at the conference. We get to bring everyone in Pennsylvania together and all of the local chapters get to have discussions about this important topic. The National Council is where we do the main work for the organization, like conducting webinars, writing more blog posts and helping connect every single chapter in the entire United States with each other and new partners. Currently, we’re working with the National Road Safety Foundation and we’re hoping to create a global youth traffic safety month webinar to connect the SADD chapters in other countries.
The next organization I’m involved in is Catch My Breath. I’m currently the president of their national council. What we do is create and review curricula that deal with vaping. We hope to see an effective and fun curriculum for middle schoolers, elementary schoolers and high schoolers so that we can make them more aware that vaping is not good for them.
I’m also a part of a mental health app team and I’m on a committee called the publication committee. So I’m working on creating an online ebook to share about mental health. We hope to create this ebook to share more information about mental health — the causes of it, different types of it — and just provide a lot more information about mental health that most people are not aware about.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
The most rewarding part is just seeing how my work is actually impactful. I get to see people joining the SADD club at my school and I get to see people start to take initiative to learn about why drugs, alcohol and vaping are a problem
What have you learned through your experiences leading this organization?
I’ve learned that patience is key when making an impact. Specifically, we can’t make a large impact in one day; it takes time for it to settle in and for you to actually see the end result of what you’re doing. So the work we’re doing now may not be impactful at the moment, but in a month or year or so, we’ll have impacted a lot of teenagers and high schoolers.
Are there any future partnerships, programs or events that you are excited about?
Right now, at SADD we have a summer break. So we pause in-person meetings, but we’re planning on having a convention in September where we all meet up and talk about the issues we’re facing. Also, our state conference is coming up too and I’m very excited about that because that helps bring together all the SADD chapters in Pennsylvania. I’ll get to meet local people and also talk about this important issue.
Why is it important for others to get involved in causes they care about?
I think it’s important for people to get involved in this advocacy because it helps them use their voice. There are many platforms for them to do that and it can help them choose a path where they can make a difference in other people’s lives – peoplewho are not aware about the dangers of these issues. As more people step up and take on the role as an advocate, we can start bringing even more awareness and possibly end substance use by youth in our schools.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
One lesson that I want people to take away is that advocacy is for everyone. No matter who they are or what they do, they can all be advocates. It’s important for you to step up and use your voice because there are lots of teenagers who are not aware about what these substances do and get caught up in peer pressure which can cause them to suffer later in life. Using drugs, alcohol and other substances can be very dangerous to your body and also to your future. So I hope that everyone, no matter who they are, can just step up and be an advocate and help make a difference.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Aarushi? Find local volunteer opportunities.