Written by Joe Scotchie Wednesday, 03 June 2009 14:55
The honors culminated months of efforts by a core group of Massapequa students, who recruited their fellow students to become involved, creating various safe-driving projects in the process. Massapequa High School was one of the 20 high schools in the nation—-and the only one from New York—-to qualify as finalist for the $10,000 grand prize.
The online teen safe driving contest, sponsored by National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS) and funded by The Allstate Foundation, featured 20 teams of teen activists from across the country that competed to raise awareness for teen safe driving in support of National Youth Traffic Safety Month in May. The winners were determined by the number of online votes they received on the contest website, www.ActOutLoud.org.
Massapequa High School’s Live Long and Prosper team encouraged safe teen driving by creating video PSAs in English and Spanish, blogging, and engaging their peers and teachers throughout the school to help get the word out.
Various classes developed safe driving signs, banners, posters, and a website, which will eventually house their work. One student painted the mural “Don’t Be Distracted,” depicting a teen girl driving while talking on her cell phone and putting on make-up. The mural is on display in Westfield Sunrise Mall in Massapequa. Another student created a papier-maché sports car, with the license plate JST DRV. Rep. Peter King (R.-Seaford), who issued a proclamation in honor of the students’ accomplishment, recognized the team during a special visit to Massapequa High School.
Team captain Brian Cusick and his teammate Rich Staubitz commented on winning the second-place prize money and also, what they planned to do with it.
“It is great to win, not just for the school but for our entire community as well,” Cusick said. “We have been working very hard throughout this entire competition to raise awareness about safe teen driving and how every person can do something to help. Our first priority is to raise teen awareness about risky driving behavior. We plan to use the award funds to help us meet that goal by purchasing a drunk driving simulator that we can use in our community to educate our peers. Hopefully, it will show teenage drivers how dangerous it really is to drink and drive.
“Winning is phenomenal but the greater success is knowing how many people followed our safe driving campaign,” Staubitz added. “Hopefully with people around the country following all of the campaigns and actoutloud.org, we will save a countless amount of lives.”
When asked what the students would do with their prize money, Cusick said: “We have been thinking a lot about what we will do with the $5,000 award. Our first priority is to raise teen awareness and we would do that by using the money toward a drunk driving simulator. Hopefully, if we can get the simulator it will show teenage drivers how dangerous it really is to drink and drive.
“We have polled many students at MHS and a drunk driving simulator was one of the top choices,” added Rich Staubitz. “With this equipment we can have the students experience the effects of drunk driving before they actually handle it in a real-life situation. Another student idea is professional camera equipment to broadcast our public service announcements throughout the year to inform the students and the community of the effects of hazardous driving.
Susan Thompson was the team’s faculty advisor. Naturally, she was pleased with her students’ efforts.
“Brian, Rich, and Amanda Kogler—three students in the Communications Academy at Massapequa High School—-ran a very effective teen driving safety campaign,” Ms. Thompson said. “Beginning with Brian’s proposal to enlist as many high school students as possible in researching all aspects of driving safety, over 300 students created public service announcements, brochures, signs, banners, reports, and art. For two months you couldn’t walk through the halls of MHS without thinking about this important issue. The Communications Academy and SADD Club provided MHS students exciting and thought-provoking awareness activities designed to put driving safety in the forefront of students’ minds. Next, students will decide what will be purchased with the second-place award of $5,000. Some of the top choices are a drunk driving simulator and equipment to produce higher quality public service announcements to be shown during morning announcements. I am so proud of our students for their work and our community for all the support they gave us in the final vote.”
A group of teens from Anoka High School, Anoka, MN were named as grand prizewinners of the contest. They will receive a $10,000 grand prize for their project, “Get the 411 on Teen Driving! Stay Connected! Save Teen Lives.”
A team from Coral Springs Charter, Coral Springs, FL, was named the third-place winner with a prize of $3,000. All prizes will fund a youth safe driving effort of the school’s choice in their respective communities.
“We are proud of these hard-working teens and their commitment to get involved in youth safe driving efforts,” said Sandy Spavone, executive director of NOYS. “Each year, more than 5,000 young people die in car crashes and about 300,000 are injured. The work of these teens and their community members combined with local enforcement and support will save lives and prevent these injuries.”
Across the nation, the Top 20 Act Out Loud teams documented their activism projects through blog, photo and video postings and educated their peers about safe teen driving in an effort to prevent crashes and risky driving behavior during the summer driving season, which is the deadliest season for teens on the road. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, six of the top 10 deadliest days for teen drivers fall between Memorial Day and Labor Day. National Youth Traffic Safety Month activities encourage teens to conduct safe driving projects in May—during prom, graduation and the launch of the summer driving season—so that teens and communities will be positively impacted by safe driving messages.
To view the winning teams’ videos and team pages, and for additional information on “Act Out Loud,” visit www.ActOutLoud.org.