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109th Airlift Wing hosts youth leadership conference

By Master Sgt. Jaclyn Lyons | New York National Guard | April 17, 2019

STRATTON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.Y.— More than 100 teenagers from five Schenectady County high schools learned how to avoid destructive behavior during a day-long youth leadership conference hosted by the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing on Tuesday, April 16.

The conference events were designed to shed light on destructive decisions, mainly drinking and driving and distracted driving. The conference was intended to kick off an effort to reinstate the Students Against Destructive Decisions Schenectady County Chapter in local schools.

Representatives from the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, Schenectady County Sheriff’s Office, New York State Police, New Choices Prevention and the National Guard Counter Drug Program were on hand with demonstrations and interactive educational stations. Students also listened to a keynote speaker to hear a firsthand experience of losing someone to poor driving decisions.

“To be able to participate and provide the space for the conference and help coordinate with all these other great agencies will have a great impact for us and the kids who participate,” explained Tech Sgt. Kristina Squillo, a member of the New York National Guard Counterdrug Task Force.

Squillo is a counterdrug civil operator who works with the community to identify needs and provide outreach services.

She worked with the other representatives who were present to make the conference happen.

The interactive education stations included an experience wearing “drunk goggles” to simulate how difficult hand-eye coordination can be when intoxicated.

A Schenectady County Sheriff educated the students on field sobriety tests and what officers look for to see if someone is driving under the influence. The New York State Police also brought a simulator so students could feel the impact of a car accident at seven mph.

Anna White and Annabelle Reesler, both seniors at Duanesburgh High School, said they learned a lot from the conference and had unique lessons to take away from the day.

“Before prom and graduation [parties] take place … it’s really good to be reminded about all the safety that needs to be involved to be sure everyone is keeping themselves and others safe,” White said.

Reesler also said the events helped her recognized the importance of safety and making good choices.

“It gave us a good insight into the consequences of poor judgment when you are behind the wheel and how it can affect your loved ones,” she said.