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September 26th, 2012

Highland receives $2,500 Project Ignition grant



HIGHLAND - Highland High School (HHS) has been selected as one of just ten leader high schools in the United States and Canada by Project Ignition - a teen driving safety program sponsored by State Farm and coordinated by the National Youth Leadership Council. Accompanying the honor was a $2,500 grant to continue the Project Ignition program’s mission of educating students about the dangers of distracted driving, which include texting while driving, as well as drinking and driving. In addition, HHS will receive another $5,000 to participate in the National Service-Learning Conference®, hosted annually by the National Youth Leadership Council, in the spring of 2013 in Denver, Colorado.

This is the second grant Highland High School has received for their “Think. Drive. Arrive.” Campaign. After working with Ulster BOCES Grant Coordinator Bonnie Meadow, HHS received an initial $2,000 Project Ignition grant in November 2011, which was used to launch their program. The new grant funding was given based on the educational efforts accomplished with the initial funding.

According to High School English teacher Annmarie Meisel, who was instrumental in securing the grant funding, the students and teachers worked together to develop a comprehensive campaign consisting of student-designed bumper stickers, posters, T-Shirts, and buttons. However, these activities were only some of the strategies. For instance, Meisel, along with her fellow English department teachers Krista Petrosoff, Steve Masson, and Josh Tatum, wrote an original play, “Status Update,” which described the factors leading to a student’s tragic death, resulting from driving while texting.

Last year, the High School hallways were also covered with “body outlines,” which were taped to the floor to resemble the chalk drawings depicting where someone died that can be found at accident scenes. The evocative drawings were used to symbolize the yearly number of teen deaths attributed to distracted driving or driving under the influence.

Another sobering activity was an assembly that featured the mothers of two high school students who had been killed in car accidents resulting from distracted driving. Hearing the moms share their personal stories of pain and loss was a powerful method to get the students’ attention.

“Students are more likely to model behaviors from home than those being taught in school, but to make an even stronger impact we want them to get hit with the message from all sides,” explained Meisel about making students understand the importance on focusing solely on driving. “We have to let them know that their existence is precious and, yes, fragile.”

For the 2012-2013 school year, the “Think. Drive. Arrive.” Campaign will be expanded from a four-month long initiative to an eight-month program. The prospect of an extended program excites recent graduate Nicholas Signorelli, who was the student project manager for last year’s “Think. Drive. Arrive.” Campaign and had a recent close call on the road.

“Some guy in a security van almost slammed into the back of my car and then he ran off the road. When I looked over at him, he was still holding his cell phone,” said Nick.

With last year’s grant money, the school purchased alcohol goggles and a specially purposed adult-sized tricycle, which simulates the effects of impairment, including reduced alertness and slowed reaction time.

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