Covering the Waterfront On Teen Advocacy

SADD Chief Sees Epidemic in Underage Drinking, Drug Abuse

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Teen Advocacy  

by Bruce E. Beans

SEVERAL YEARS AGO STEPHEN WALLACE ’81, the volunteer chairman and CEO of SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), sat in a soundproof booth observing California teenagers through a one-way window as they discussed drinking, drug use, sex and driving. The focus group was part of Teens Today, a seven-year study of adolescent attitudes and behaviors conducted by SADD and Liberty Mutual Insurance Co.

One youth, a 17-year-old high school senior, was regaling the others with tales of his adolescent indiscretions, including his substantial drug habit and his regular role as his friends’ designated driver. “I drive wasted better than anyone else,” he boasted.

Across the hall, Wallace also watched the teen’s mother, who was part of a parents group. “I’m not sure why I’m here,” she said. “Jared’s not involved in any of these things. He prefers to spend weekends at home, playing Monopoly with his grandmother.”

That’s how Wallace opens his recent book, Reality Gap: Alcohol, Drugs and Sex What Parents Don’t Know and Teens Aren’t Telling. “It’s not that parents are just clue less,” he says. “As one teen told me, ‘Some kids work overtime to make sure their parents aren’t on their trail.’”

Since his first affiliation with SADD more than two decades ago, Wallace has be come a widely quoted expert on teen behavior. NBC’s Today, MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, E! Entertainment, XM radio and national and regional newspapers, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and USA Today, have all featured Wallace, a spokesperson for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy under the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

In his day job, Wallace is principal of Summit Communications Management Corp., a consulting firm he operates from offices overlooking Boston Harbor. His regional and national clients have included telecommunications, energy and consumer product companies.

But Wallace’s passion clearly is working with young people. In addition to his SADD role, which involves regular speaking engagements across the country, he is an adjunct psychology professor at Mount Ida College; the director of counseling and counselor training at the Cape Cod Sea Camps, which he first attended as a boy; and a regular contributor to the American Camp Association’s (ACA) magazines and Web site. He was recently recognized by both the White House and the American Camp Association for his tireless work on behalf of America’s youth.

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