An eight-student committee at Marion High School has been promoting seat belt safety to their classmates the past four months, and Monday they received a financial boost from a local charitable trust to encourage and enhance their efforts.
The SAFE (Seat Belts are For Everyone) program is a student-driven education program through the Kansas Traffic Safety Resource Office, which provided seed money to implement the program at MHS.
At a school assembly Monday, David Colburn, a trustee of the Lorraine B. Hadsell Charitable Trust, presented a $600 donation to the students to encourage and enhance their efforts.
Colburn said his own experience as an MHS sophomore where wearing a seat belt prevented serious injuries in a car accident, and the student-led nature of the project led him to bring the program to the attention of the other Hadsell trustees — Louise Colburn, Lynn Colburn Diodati, Carol Colburn Hicks, and J. Robert Brookens.
“Promoting seat belt safety among teens is always a worthy endeavor, but the fact that the SAFE program promotes leadership and advocacy skills by having students in charge was an important factor in our decision to donate to the cause,” Colburn said.
The gift will be used to supplement activities and incentives students have used to get their message across, and reward those who have fulfilled their pledges to wear seat belts and drive safely.
Trying to negotiate an obstacle course driving a golf cart while texting, sponsoring a seat belt crash simulator, and passing out dollar bills after school to drivers and passengers who were buckled up were some of the activities the committee implemented. Students were rewarded at assemblies with snacks and Marion Chamber Bucks.
Quinton Hett, Annie Whitaker, Julia Hall, Kaelyn Thierolf, Megan Richmond, Wiley Lundy, Eric Regnier and Justin Rahe were the students on the committee that has come to be known as the SAFE club, and they were unanimous in agreeing the efforts should continue next year.
Regnier noted the extent of the challenge he and his fellow committee members took on.
“It was brand new to us,” Regnier said. “We had to get it started, then introduce it to everyone else, making it bigger and expanding it.”
SAFE sponsor Janice Waner was pleased with the group’s work on the project, and ideas have already been generated to make the program better next yeaer.
“This year we appointed students because we wanted different representation of older kids and younger kids,” Waner said. “People next year are going to apply for a position, so they’re going to have a vested interest.”
One challenge facing continuation of the program is funding, as the seed money from the state was for only this school year. MHS Principal Tod Gordon hopes to find creative ways to generate funds without initiating a community-based fundraising effort.
“There’s so much fundraising going on, and the community gets hit pretty hard with that,” Gordon said, while indicating the school would welcome any voluntary contributions.
Gordon would like to see other student organizations take some responsibility for continuing the SAFE program.
“If every little club, all the different groups would donate, that would be helpful,” Gordon said.