By David Daggett

Twenty-nine years ago, I donned a tuxedo and went to the food court at Hanes Mall on a Friday night. I was there to encourage teens to stay drug and alcohol free on prom night as they shopped for their prom dresses and tuxedos.

It felt like pulling teeth, getting the kids over to my table and convincing them to sign the pledge. But it worked, and I kept at it. And now we have over 15,000 teenagers who sign the Safe Sober Prom Night Pledge each year.

Now in its twenth-ninth year, Safe Sober Prom Night encourages high-school students to be safe with a written pledge to stay sober on prom night. Each student who signs a pledge card receives a free t-shirt. Students are given additional incentives to keep their commitment, including scholarships and a chance to win $1,000 for their school.

To date, more than 500,000 students have signed the Safe Sober “Do it Right!” pledge, making it the largest and longest-running privately funded initiative of its type in the United States!

As part of the Safe Sober Prom Night program, Triad students submit their own designs for consideration to be printed on the front of 15,000 t-shirts. This year, Angelina Rice is the winner of the competition, selected from over 150 contest entries. She received a $500 scholarship and her name is printed on the back of each t-shirt.

Many schools incorporate these t-shirts into their spirit week leading up to prom, which creates an atmosphere of positive peer pressure and encourages students to make safe decisions on prom night.

To say that prom season is my favorite time of year is an understatement. There are 50 high schools that participate in Safe Sober Prom Night, and we personally visit each one, from Wilkesboro to Burlington, and from the Virginia border to southern Davidson County.  It is certainly a busy time of year for us, but we do it because these young people are the best and brightest we have ever had. They just need to be pointed in the right direction to make decisions that will make them future leaders.

Please join me in wrapping our collective arms of support and encouragement around our young people. They need it, deserve it, and it ensures a brighter future for our communities.