Students awarded for safe choices, positive influence

By Michelle Costanza

May 3, 2013 Updated May 3, 2013 at 12:07 AM EDT

Endicott, NY (WBNG Binghamton) More than 500 middle and high school students were recognized Thursday for being a positive influence in their communities.

Sen. Tom Libous (R-52) and officials from Lourdes Hospital held a reception Thursday evening for the more than 500 student YES! LEADers.

Libous founded the YES! Safe Choices program some 24 years ago to educate and encourage kids to make healthy choices and say no to drugs and alcohol.

Students are trained by counselors and other professionals in drug resistance and give back by educating and encouraging their younger peers.

The LEADers represented 16 school districts, but all shared the common goal of leading a healthy lifestyle and looking to a bright future.

"These students go into the lower grades and communicate with them in different ways and we find it to be very effective. They go onto school and do tremendous things," Libous said.

Some of the students have contributed over four years to the program and amassed more than 1,000 hours of community service. Many said working with the younger kids is rewarding.

"It's easier for kids to talk to other students instead of adults sometimes. They're always engaged when we're doing our activities, they're so interested," said Seton Catholic Central senior Ashley Woodruff.

Three scholarships were awarded to outstanding participants to go toward their college education. Those recipients were Richard Mathers, of Windsor, Ashley Woodruff, of Seton Catholic Central, and Kate Armstrong, of Maine-Endwell.