by Aelish Nealon and Bea Peterson
“It’s important that the voices of today’s teens are heard, and it’s even more important that we are given a chance to make a change in the world that we will eventually be taking care of. Beginning with Project Ignition and other youth-led programs, we are given an opportunity to improve our hometowns and the issues we can all relate to in one way or another, as well as a chance of making life safer for future generations, not just for our lives today.”
This is a quote from an essay written by Nicole St. Onge, a junior at HFCS, who represented NYS at a Project Ignition Conference held in Washington DC. [private]The essay earned her the opportunity to speak before U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, representatives of the Department of Transportation, members of Congress and nine other Project Ignition teams from across the United States. Her presentation took place during a special reception with key leaders on Capital Hill.
In 2011 the Hoosick Falls Project Ignition team was selected to be one of 24 teams in the United States. These teams demonstrated strong commitment, creative marketing and awareness of safe driving, particularly among teens. The Hoosick Falls team’s continued creative work placed it among the top ten Project Ignition Teams in the nation. Nicole was selected to stand as the Hoosick Falls and NYS representative and, with the nine other Project Ignition Leader schools, attend the Washington DC conference. Her winning essay portrayed her opinion on how important the linkage is between community minded adults and eager to learn youth. Having the ability and opportunity to work together on important issues such as safe driving and making positive, healthy choices can make a big difference in a small community such as Hoosick Falls.
Later this year Nicole will be one of two Hoosick Falls representatives to attend the Project Ignition Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Attendance is expected to be near 3,000 people from around the world.
Project Ignition was made possible through a grant written by Aelish Nealon, Executive Director of HAYC3, funded by State Farm®.
Nicole Addresses St. Mary’s Academy
Nicole is a 2009 graduate of St. Mary’s Academy. On Monday, January 25, she addressed the students at SMA and shared her experience with them. She told them of job-shadowing a Transportation Department grant writer for a day, which entailed a visit to the White House.
Earlier Nicole said how impressed she was with Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. He explained to the audience that President Obama had asked him to attend a meeting in Detroit. He asked the President for a jet to bring him back to Washington immediately after the meeting because, he told the President, he had to be there for the presentations. “He was awesome,” said Nicole. “He was for us one hundred percent.”
What brought the HFCS team into the top ten was the outstanding job the Project Ignition Team did last April with a power point program and skit encouraging safe driving practices. The program raised awareness about the dangers of distracted driving, particularly among teens. It also encouraged seat belt use and the importance of not speeding or driving under the influence. The Team, assisted by HAYC3, created public service posters and special backpacks featuring a “Lock Up Your Cell” logo they designed. The backpacks were distributed to students in grades ten through twelve to encourage them to put their cell phones out of reach before getting behind the wheel. Outdoors they conducted the fifth annual Battle of the Belts contest. They were supported by programs put on by NYS Troopers, HFCS’s SADD Chapter and the Youth Summit Team.
The Winning Essay
“The word leader has been defined as one who guides by influence. For many people, leaders seem to take the form of adults, but Project Ignition and other programs similar to it have begun a trend that changes one’s typical idea of a leader. Instead, they’ve turned the tables and started to allow teens to take the lead on things that matter in their lives every day, namely driving safely. Most of us have heard the stories of teenage drivers who’ve made the decision to text, talk to other passengers or play around with the radio while driving and who lose control of not just their vehicle but their lives, even if only for a split second.
When it comes to reducing these accidents, the mission should be that of those who are most commonly impacted by them and can spread the message more effectively – teens. We know how to relate to our peers, be it through using the latest social media networks or other methods that are the most appealing to our age groups. When we’re the ones taking the reins of these serious issues, the people around us are more likely to listen and make the changes we suggest, since we can use these strategies as forms of positive peer pressure to encourage smarter choices.
It’s important that the concerns of the safety of teen drivers today are addressed, simply because times have changed and they continue to constantly. Every piece of technology becomes updated and more exciting than the last, and sometimes teens get so caught up with the popularity of having the ‘new thing’ that the excitement overpowers their ability to see the potential dangers of their choices. Another reason for raising awareness is the fact that younger children look up to the high school students they see, be it driving on the road or passing by them in the hallways. When teens start to pay attention to how their actions can impact themselves while driving, it’s likely that they will be more cautious of how they act when they’re not in the driver’s seat. These changes will provide better examples for future drivers so they won’t have to learn from experience how dangerous even the smallest distractions can be.
There is always the question of how the issues of each individual community can be solved, but the only ones that understand them best are the people who live there. Youths and adults work closely every day in school, but sometimes, the most beneficial learning experiences are found outside of the classroom. Programs that reach out to communities with service-learning provide youth and adults with opportunities to learn from each other and provide different points of view that are crucial to creating a place that fits all ages. The youth bring an eagerness to learn and ideas of how to make the world they grow up in better, while adults supply experience and extra encouragement and help to make almost any vision a reality. It’s important that people of all ages can learn from each other and can communicate throughout their communities in order to solve any problems that may come up, while also supporting each other’s opinions on different topics.
It’s important that the voices of today’s teens are heard, and it’s even more important that we are given a chance to make a change in the world that we will eventually be taking care of. Beginning with Project Ignition and other youth-led programs, we are given an opportunity to improve our hometowns and the issues we can all relate to in one way or another, as well as a chance of making life safer for future generations, not just for our lives today.”[/private]