Friday, July 1, 2011

Peer to Peer Accident Prevention Program

I have been involved in Girl Scouts for the past 12 years and during those years I have dedicated much of my time to community service. My Gold award project was a Peer-to-peer Driving Education project.I chose my project for three reasons. First, automobile accidents are the number one killer of teens and account for 70 percent of teen injuries and deaths. Nationwide, approximately 6,000 teens die in vehicle accidents each year. That is roughly equivalent to a Southwest Airlines plane filled with teens crashing once a week for a year.Second, my state and local community have not escaped the impact of teens being injured or killed in traffic accidents. In Texas alone, 600 teens each year die in traffic accidents. In the last two years, eight high school students in Garland, Texas have died in car accidents. Three of those students were from my high school, Lakeview Centennial High School.Third, my family was personally affected by this issue. In 2007, my cousin, who is only two years older than me, almost died in a car accident. This experience had a profound impact on my family and I. This silent epidemic kills 600 Texas teens and 6,000 nation-wide annually. It is extremely important for this issue to be addressed because I do not want any more of my friends or fellow students to experience what my family went through with my cousin, or worse yet to have their parents identify their child's remains due to a fatal automobile accident.

To determine possible projects to educate teens on driving safety, I first researched what programs were offered by the city of Garland. Each March for the past two years, the Garland Youth Council has sponsored a Teens in the Driver Seat event. The events offers teens the opportunity to drive through an obstacle course and wear “drunk goggles” to simulate drinking. State Farm Insurance has a booth that offers families a ten percent discount for teens that complete the State Farm Steer Clear Program and there are a few give-aways. Overall, the attendance was less than what the city hoped for. Some of the area high schools participated in the program by running their own school booth that focused on a particular driving habit or hazard, for instance driving at night. I too aided in this program by tracking statistics of student attendance by tying ribbons based on school colors on a clothesline to visually display which school supported the program the most. My school, Lakeview Centennial sponsored a obstacle course that demonstrated the dangers of drunk driving allowing kids to wear the “drunk goggles” and walk the course where a student and a squirrel jumped in front of the simulated drunk driver. I really enjoyed the program and used some of the ideas presented to aid my project at my high school like the PSA and give-aways. By directing my Gold Award Project towards educating teens on the dangers of inexperienced driving, I hope to make a real difference in my community and make sure that I do not lose any more of my friends and classmates.

Next, I contacted the Texas Transportation Institution (TTI), a research organization affiliated with Texas A&M University. Their mission is to solve transportation problems through research, and TTI has done hundreds of studies about all aspects of transportation. Over the last several years they have gotten very involved in the teen death epidemic. I learned the latest statistical information on teen driving and its importance. TTI completed many community-wide studies where they surveyed entire school districts that have driving programs and communities that do not. Their statistics indicate strongly that peer-to-peer programs are highly successful. In fact, they are the national sponsors for Teens in the Driver Seat, a program designed for peer-to-peer education on driving.

The community benefited by making inexperienced drivers more conscious about their driving habits. Also, the teens at Lakeview Centennial High School benefited by becoming more aware of driving hazards and making a promise to drive safe.

I used several methods to evaluate my project’s success. The “Prom”ise Poster was a huge success and was signed by 680 students. While people were signing the poster, I passed out Dum Dum suckers as a give-away. A message was attached that said, “Don’t be a Dum Dum Promise to Drive Safe.” These served as a little reminder to keep my peers safe while driving.

My mother was a chaperone for Prom. At the end, the chaperones handed out goodie bags and told each student to drive safely going home. She was very proud when she heard over 25 couples say, "I signed the “Prom”ise Poster, I'll be careful," upon leaving the Prom. While this is not scientific it certainly demonstrates how something so simple like the “Prom”ise Poster can have a positive impact. Going through both Prom and all the various graduation activities and not having any of my friends and classmates be in an accident suggests that I did make an impact on my peers.

For another portion of my Gold Award, I surveyed the Junior and Senior students at Lakeview Centennial High School at the beginning of the school year, then repeated the same survey toward the end of the school year right before Prom, after providing various forms of education in between. TTI helped tabulate the results to make it easier to do the analysis. The survey asked questions about the top five driving hazards for teen drivers, what driving courses they have completed or are now taking, and what behaviors they exhibit behind the wheel. Both surveys were sent to the Texas Transportation Institute of Dallas to be accurately tabulated for results. My volunteers helped distribute about 750 surveys out to all the Junior and Senior advisor classes. On the pre survey, 328 were returned back for tabulation and 259 on the post survey. (See demographics below)

Section 1 of the Survey – Top Risks:

The results display an increased awareness of three of the five top risk factors that teens face while driving, including texting and driving. Additionally, more students were also able to identify all five driving risks. And there was a four percent increase of students who were able to identify four out of the five top risk factors. The results suggest that educational programs work and that peer-to-peer programs are effective.

Section 2 of the Survey – Demographics:

The second part of the survey asked demographic questions about the person taking the survey. Questions included not only their grade and age, but also asked what type of license they have, did they attended a driver’s education course or were they taught by a parent, and whether they took an on-road driving test. This part of the survey also asked if they had a friend or family member who was seriously injured or killed in a car accident. Surprisingly, half of the students answered yes to this question. Most respondents were 16, 17, or 18 years of age and stated they were either a Junior or a Senior. This was exactly the group I was targeting, which is not surprising since that was the group the surveys were distributed to. A somewhat disturbing fact is that most kids surveyed were taught to drive by their parents. Parent-taught teen drivers are 3 times more likely to die in a fatality accident, based on a previous study by TTI. Public awareness and schools should publicize this fact and continue to support driver’s education programs.

Section 3 of the Survey – Driving Habits and what have they done?

The next part of the survey discussed the students’ driving habits. Of all of the students driving at Lakeview, 12% admitted to receiving a speeding ticket. Another 5% have received a ticket for running a red light and 2% have received a ticket due to a seat belt violation. Six students, out of 328 on the pre-survey, risked their life by not wearing their seat belt and received a ticket. Although these percentages do not appear to be a danger, they are. Twenty-one percent, or 69 of the students who took the post-survey admitted to not wearing a seatbelt while driving and 49% admit to not wearing a seatbelt as a passenger. Remarkably, very few kids had an alcohol offense on either of the surveys. GISD has had an Alcohol Awareness program since I was in elementary school. The fact that my survey showed that 99% of the 259 kids who took the post-survey would not drink and drive is amazing and is certainly additional proof that educational programs work. The most remarkable statistic of this section was the 4% decrease in the number of kids that have driven in a vehicle with one or more other teenagers without anyone over the age of 21 in the vehicle. This change may be directly attributable to the flyer I created that discussed the rules for drivers under the age of 21.

It is my sincere hope that by providing additional methods of educating teen drivers that I can reduce at least one, if not more, serious car accident of friends and fellow students. By making my peers aware of the top driving safety issues, it hopefully will teach important life-long lessons that maybe one day they will hand down to their own children. While there is no way to measure this, I feel that my hard work is well worth the effort.

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"Leave sooner, drive slower, live longer."

~Author unknown

Sunday, June 26, 2011

10 ways to stay healthy

Fitness isn’t just jogging around a track every once in a while; it is being healthy and making healthy decisions. As a student, I realize that it can be tough, sometimes too tough, to make time for the gym, especially when an important test is coming up. So how can I stay healthy when there’s little or no time for the gym?

Here’s ten ways to be healthy without going to the gym:

1. Don’t go out of your way to be lazy and walk to the elevator, just take the stairs next to the entrance. You might get winded at first, but think about it, one day you will conquer those evil stairs instead of the stairs conquering you.

2. Put down that energy drink and eat a cold and crisp apple- it is a much healthier decision and surprisingly it can wake you up just as well.

3. Go to breakfast and order eggs and bacon — I’ve realized I have a better day when I wake up and go to the cafeteria than rolling out of bed and grabbing a granola bar to go.

4. Don’t pull all nighters! This is definitely one thing that can cause you to feel horrible, I can attest to that. Instead, put down the books by midnight or try to get at least six hours of sleep. Your brain needs sleep to function, so don’t starve it!

5. Stay away from soft drinks and coffee! Caffeine, while it may offer a temporary energy boost, in the end you will crash.

6. Take occasional breaks from studying to give your eyes a rest. A 15 to 30 minute nap, regardless if you sleep or not, reenergizes and refreshes your body and you can begin studying again.

7. Set up consistent meal times and try not to snack in between. This regulates your body and decreases your chances of pigging out on unhealthy snacks.

8. Get involved with a Zumba or yoga class on campus with a group of your friends; some campuses even have Swing lessons or other dance classes. This makes for a fun time and gets your heart rate going.

9. Try to stay as stress free as possible. Maintain equilibrium. So don’t slack off then try to cram. Cramming leads to sleep deprivation, which leads to — want to guess? More stress! And this doesn’t even include other stress factors in your life like relationships with your boyfriend or girlfriend, your roommate, and parents.

10. Take a designated YOU time. This could mean hanging out with friends one night, taking a stroll in the park, or just being creative. This will serve as body rejuvenation and fun time for you!

So there are ways of being fit while not being a work out maniac. Just follow these simple steps, throw in some veggies and cycling here and there, and you’ll be on your way to better and healthier lifestyle. Hope these tips help you stay healthy like they have helped me.

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"Aerobics: a series of strenuous excercises which help convert fats, sugars, and starches into aches, pains, and cramps."

~Author unknown

Saturday, June 11, 2011

To the Teens in the Passengers seat

Here is my entry for the Create a Real Impact Contest:
We always hear about the drivers being distracted, but what about the passengers being distracting? The driver has your life in their hands, don't be reckless, be wreckless.

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"It takes 8,400 bolts to assemble an automobile, and one nut to scatter it all over the road.”

~Author unknown

Monday, January 24, 2011

Freshmen 15 associated with sleep deprivation

Losing a night of sleep burns approximately 135 calories, which is equivalent to about two miles of walking, and although that sounds great, you might end up losing more than that... your mind! So for all the young ladies trying to stay fit, think about those hours put in at the gym next time you plan to pull an all-nighter.

Freshman year is already stressful enough! I know when I pull all-nighters studying for exams, I inhale anything with caffeine whether it's a Coke, Dr. Pepper, or White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino from the cafe. I even pull out the chips and gold fish, which of course blows that loss of 135 calories out of the water! Unfortunately, this is a frequent tendency for most college students but engorging is not the only problem with sleep deprivation.

Lack of sleep seriously takes a toll on anyone. It causes people to be moody, irritated, impatient, negative, and let’s face it, no one wants to be around a grizzly bear. Sleep deprivation is not only for the average college student either; many adults don’t receive enough sleep. The National Center on Sleep Disorders Research
(NCSDR) says that sleep restriction is an inevitable consequence of nighttime shift work. So staying up late for the boss could have unwanted effects on neurobehavioral functions, like alertness, accuracy, and performance.

Here are some tips to treat sleep deprivation.

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“Community showers are disgusting. Make sure you have good flip flops.”

~Every college student with good hygiene

How to make friends fast:

  1. Always have your dorm door open! Get to know your neighbors. People passing by will stop and say hi. Conversate and ask where they’re from.
  2. Always go to the freshmen seminars. Sit by someone new and introduce yourself.
  3. Say “yes” to just about everything. If someone says, “hey let’s check out the chess club,” you say “yes!” Think about the movie Yes Man, say yes but… stay out of trouble.
  4. Don’t be too quiet in class; introduce yourself to the professors and students.
  5. Participate in the icebreakers. Make yourself memorable. Say something interesting. If nothing interesting has happened to you, make it up and joke with it.

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“Buy rain boots. Best decision of my life.”

~Every college student who hates mud

College is tough, I can help you learn the ropes

College is often described as “an experience of a lifetime” where you receive higher learning and become exposed to a whole new environment and have the chance to make wonderful lifelong friends. But what if college isn’t exactly what you were hoping for. What if you feel like your in a crowd of people screaming “maybe college isn’t right for me,” but no one can hear you.

When I arrived at college, I knew no one except my roommate who I met a month in advance. She seemed sweet and fit my personality well so I wasn’t too worried about sharing a room with her; instead I was worried about… pretty much everything else, especially the professors! I could just imagine cold demanding words slithering out of the professors cynical lips if I forgotten my books on the first day or didn't know the answer like in Legally Blonde. Of course that sounds a bit like an overstatement, but I’m what most kids consider a “goodie goodie.” Yep, that’s me.

As a college freshman, I know exactly what you’re going through. I’ve packed up, moved in, felt homesick, found a roommate, made new friends, bought books… need I list more? Fortunately, I think I’ve finally found my place, but I’m still learning the ropes.

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I learned three important things in college - to use a library, to memorize quickly and visually, to drop asleep at any time given a horizontal surface and fifteen minutes.
~Agnes DeMille, Dance to the Piper, 1952