WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. — National, state, and local leaders gathered at Wiregrass Ranch High School in Wesley Chapel, Florida on Wednesday morning for a big announcement.
Shaina Finkel, a rising senior at Wiregrass, was named the National Student President for Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD).
The organization is home to more than 40,000 students. SADD states that its sole purpose is to mobilize communities and advocate about issues on traffic safety, substance abuse, mental health, and youth leadership development.
Becoming a National Student President is said to be highly competitive, and Finkel had everything it took in order to take on such a leadership role.
“Just, whatever she puts her heart into you know it’s going to grow and grow,” said Jennifer Finkel, Shaina’s mother.
“She sees all good. And she wants to help,” added Greg Finkel, her proud dad.
Shaina’s involvement with SADD is a family affair.
Her dad, Greg, the student driving instructor at Wiregrass Ranch High School, started the chapter there 13 years ago.
Even at the age of four, Shaina would help.
Two years ago, she became the local chapter president. And now, the organization's national leader representing 7,500 chapters with around 400,000 students.
Finkel was joined on stage by Rick Birt, the President and CEO of SADD, Superintendent of Pasco County Schools, Kurt S. Browning, and her father Greg Finkel who is the high school's SADD Advisor.
"Shaina's passion and commitment to issues facing students today make her the ideal candidate to be SADD's next National President," said President Birt.
“There are so many things you can teach a leader,” said SADD CEO Rick Birt. “You can teach public speaking. You can teach a lot of those hard skills. But you can’t teach the energy and enthusiasm, the passion that Shaina has.”
The newly elected president has shown rigorous performance throughout high school. She has spearheaded volunteer projects while serving as President of Wiregrass' SADD chapter, a member of the National Honor Society, and was deemed an AP Student of the Year.
"Being involved in SADD allows me to be part of something bigger than myself,” Finkel said to the audience. She also shared how she was excited to serve as the new President while working with other SADD students across the country.
Influenced by the challenges of the pandemic, Shaina says she wants to promote at the national level some of the same mental health initiatives she started at Wiregrass Ranch.
It’s the bedrock, she says, for students to make better decisions.
“I think everyone should realize that they’re not alone,” said Shaina. “That’s what we’re doing here and that’s what I plan to do with SADD national.”
“She’s already become a massive leader,” said Greg Finkel. “So, you know, the sky is the limit.”
Becoming the national president of SADD also puts Shaina on a national stage. She’ll be the public face of the organization as a spokesperson, and even represent them at congressional hearings.
According to a release, SADD's National President leads the Student Leadership Council and advises the SADD National Board of Directors on policies, programs, and priorities.
Finkel will carry out her presidential duties by providing strategic direction to the organization on health and safety outcomes and nationally representing the SADD network for the 2021-2022 school year.
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