Aaron Bell, student body president at Jordan High School, stopped playing football after his freshman year because of the "time commitment."
There were too many other things he wanted to do - things like volunteering 400 hours to be a team member in PRIDE - Peers Responsible In Drug Education."I hope that just by being a role model, telling kids they can be themselves, they can avoid the (drug) problem," said Bell, one of many Utah teen leaders spearheading the statewide drug-free movement.
His work is cut out for him.
Statistics show that 3 1/2 million youths nationwide between ages 14 and 17 are alcoholics.
Local psychologists say that alcohol is the most preferred drug among Utah teens, who are also using marijuana, LSD and Robitussin-DM to suppress stress, frustration and disappointment.
"It's all around, but not all around me," said Bell, who said he's never used drugs. "I think it was the way I was raised and the kind of environment I grew up in. I was always taught, and it sank in, that drugs are bad for you."
Bell said he's seen evidence of that time and time again.
"Kids who I thought could really go places, even some in leadership positions, ran into drugs and alcohol and just lost interest in anything," he said. "Ilost contact with them; they tended to isolate themselves. It was really sad."
Bell, former junior class president and sophomore class vice president, a Sterling Scholar and all-around athlete, some days arrives at school at 6:30 a.m., and because of work and extracurricular activities doesn't get home until 11 p.m. He personally knows the pressures of high school.
But he has little tolerance for the artificial ways some students mask those pressures.
"I tell them, `You are not really escaping pressures by altering your mind, or the way you feel. Drugs are not the answer,' " he said. "It's hard for me to understand why they don't realize that. Even when their friends are ruining their lives, they are still not waking up."
Tragically, Bell said, there are likely more Utah teens who have tried drugs than haven't.
But the student leader and his colleagues, who take their PRIDE program into elementary and middle schools, hope to change the perception that "if you don't use drugs, drink alcohol, you won't be accepted."
It's important, he said, for younger kids to know there are high school students who are not drug users, who don't drink every weekend and that drugs aren't their only option when they enter high school.
"We kind of take the viewpoint that we are successful, are having a good time and we don't do those things," he said. "Hopefully we can convince kids it's becoming cool to be drug-free. Hopefully we can give them a role model to look up to."