Friday, October 31, 2014

Students spread seat-belt message in Nashville

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 5/7/2014

NASHVILLE — No one had to be told to buckle up for a presentation about seat-belt safety in the country music capital. A presentation by two Ottawa High School seniors had the national audience glued to their seats, observers said.

The presentation about Kansas’ Seatbelts Are For Everyone program was hailed a success among attendees of a national safety conference April 27-29 in Nashville, Laura Moore, state SAFE coordinator with the Kansas Traffic Safety Resource Office in Topeka, said.

NASHVILLE — No one had to be told to buckle up for a presentation about seat-belt safety in the country music capital. A presentation by two Ottawa High School seniors had the national audience glued to their seats, observers said.

The presentation about Kansas’ Seatbelts Are For Everyone program was hailed a success among attendees of a national safety conference April 27-29 in Nashville, Laura Moore, state SAFE coordinator with the Kansas Traffic Safety Resource Office in Topeka, said.

Meagan Powell and Frankie Hernandez, OHS seniors, were in the driver’s seat for that presentation and deserve the credit, Moore said. Powell and Hernandez served on a six-member panel that included two teens each from Alaska and Tennessee who gave presentations about safety initiatives in their states or region during the session titled, “Generation Buckle Up.” The Lifesavers National Conference on Highway Safety Priorities was the largest gathering of highway safety professionals in the United States, according to the conference’s website.

“Frankie and Meagan gave the best presentation, and they were the most confident,” Moore, who accompanied Powell and Hernandez on the trip, said.

Moore wasn’t the only one who thought OHS SAFE Team leaders Hernandez and Powell did a terrific job, she said. Not only did attendees at the conference rave about the presentation, Moore said, they even heard great feedback at the airport while awaiting their return flight home.

“People who attended the conference who were at the airport told them what an excellent job they did,” Moore said. “We even had people on the flight tell them what a good job they had done.”

In addition to describing the SAFE program, Powell and Hernandez talked about the initiative’s success in getting more teens to buckle up, Moore said.

Survey says ...

Seat-belt use by OHS students and their passengers was measured at 90.3 percent in a recent survey of school parking lot traffic, nearly 30 percent higher than the 61 percent figure logged in the initial survey taken three years ago when the SAFE program was implemented at OHS, Dennis Butler, Ottawa police chief, said during a recent assembly at the high school, 1120 S. Ash St., Ottawa.

“This is the most successful safety or crime prevention initiative I have ever been associated with,” Butler said. “I have never seen such dramatic and positive results in such a brief period demonstrated by the SAFE program. The fact that it is student-led is why I believe this has been so successful.”

Hernandez and Powell had the opportunity to experience the full three-day conference in Nashville thanks to funding from local Franklin County sponsors, Moore said.

The trip was funded by Keith King, State Farm Insurance agent in Ottawa, the Ottawa Police Foundation, Ottawa Optimist Club, Franklin County Attorney’s Office and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Butler and Moore said.

“They attended sessions on texting and driving and pedestrian texting [and other topics] ... I think it opened their eyes to what traffic safety is on a national level,” Moore said.

The conference could not have been more inspirational, Powell said.

“I had never been to a conference, let alone present at one,” Powell said. “While at the conference, Frankie and I attended sessions with specific goals. Because of this, Frankie and I chose the sessions that pertained to seat belt usage and distracted driving. We learned that 58 percent of fatal car accidents in Kansas were unrestrained, which is higher than the national average.

“This inspired us to work even harder than we have been despite the fact that we are seniors,” Powell said. “In college, we plan to start programs promoting traffic safety along with continuing to stay active in the SAFE program at the high school.”

Hernandez could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Empowering program

The SAFE program has been such a large part of Powell’s high school career, she said.

“So, of course I jumped at the opportunity to present,” Powell said. “At first I was really nervous because my biggest fear is microphones. It took some work, but I was able to practice before the conference. By the time it was time to present, I was too excited to be nervous.

The presentation went “amazing,” Powell said.

“We were worried because we did not know what the other four teens would say, and we chose to go first,” Powell said. “Thankfully, we had at least 50 people compliment us on the presentation, which was so empowering because these people were interested in what we had to say. We even had some people ask how to start a SAFE program in their state because of our presentation.”

Powell already has been in contact with the girls from Alaska and Tennessee since the conference, she said.

“The friendships we formed at the conference were amazing as well,” she said.

Hernandez and Powell could not have asked for a better sponsor than Moore, Powell said.

“Laura Moore was amazing,” Powell said. “Although she isn’t old enough, she treated us like she was our mother, along with [being] a close friend. We plan to make her a part of our lives even into adulthood.”

Powell and Hernandez got to experience some lighter moments too, Powell said, which included line dancing.

“We also had the opportunity to line dance with Laura and some [state] troopers around Kansas, which was the perfect Nashville experience,” Powell said. “This was the most amazing experience of my life. I could not be more appreciative.”

comments powered by Disqus