To show students what could happen when driving distracted or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, Lawrence High School and the Five Towns Community Center joined forces to display a wrecked car at the school’s Cedarhurst campus.
Community Center interim Executive Director Pete Sobol said that the car was first on display at the center for a week in mid-May. “Our thought process to displaying the car was to give the youth of our community a visual of the consequences of driving under the influence,” Sobol said. “We always want to be in front of a tragedy, not behind it.” The car was donated by Woodmere Car Care and was moved from the center to the high school by 878 Auto and Towing in Lawrence, he said.
Christian Paulino, the high school’s director of student affairs, collaborated on the initiative with Sobol. “I’m about to finish my third year at the school and this is the first year that were doing this,” Paulino said. “The superintendent, Dr. [Ann] Pedersen and myself thought it would be a good idea to bring it back this year to give students the visual of distracted driving.”
Paulino said that the timing and location of the wrecked car was not a coincidence. “We have the car displayed right outside the student parking lot and decided to do this in late-May since it’s prom season and some of our junior students are getting their driver’s licenses,” he said. “The location was strategic because we wanted to constantly remind the students the dangers of driving under the influence and driving while distracted.”
The school’s Students Against Destructive Decisions club was also apart of the initiative, as SADD spray painted the car with messages that advise against distracted driving such as: “Think Again,” and “Don’t Text and Drive.”
The club’s adviser is foreign language teacher, Jeannine Cammarata. She noted the other things that SADD does to raise awareness on distracted driving, such as Grim Reaper Day on May 31 in which a student dressed up as the “angel of death” and then chose 25 “victims” throughout the school, who then put on a black T-shirt and remained silent for the remainder of the school day as if they were dead. The shirts included texts that explain how the students died from distracted driving.
“I think that Grim Reaper Day sends a profound message to all the students about the dangers of distracted driving,” Cammarata said. “When you have a student who’s usually talkative that volunteers to be ‘dead’ for the day, it makes a difference in the classroom.”
Cammarata said that the goal is help ensure that the decisions young people make are the right ones. “To me, it’s important if we help at least one kid not make a bad decision,” she said. “I hope we keep on doing these initiatives.”
Paulino and Sobol both said that they will look to partner on future initiatives. “I hope to continue to work with Pete and the community center on other projects,” Paulino said. “It’s important for us to teach our youth on how to be responsible drivers.”