By LISA CAPOBIANCO
When Bristol Central High School applied for State Farm’s 2n2 Teen Safe Driving Competition, students and faculty did not expect to be the only school in Connecticut to win.
During a pep rally held the day before Thanksgiving, the entire school community was ecstatic to learn that they won the competition out of over 3,000 applicants. The grand prize for the top 22 entries was a $100,000 grant, which will help educate students on making good decisions behind the wheel.
World Language Teacher Gina Gallo-Reinhard, who took part in the project’s process, could not explain her level of excitement upon the news of Bristol Central winning the competition.
“Having people notice all the great things that we do here is really important to us,” said Gallo. “It’s something that we’re really proud of.”
The process of the competition began in September when Bristol Central received information about the State Farm grant, which the school participated in two years ago. Although Bristol Central was in the top running at the time, it did not win the competition. This year, Gallo, along with other faculty members, decided to enter Bristol Central into the competition again. The application involved submitting a 32-second PSA that interprets State Farm’s slogan, Drive 2n2: Drive with two eyes on the road and two hands on the wheel.
“We’re really excited to see the students’ hard work paid off,” said technology education teacher Jonathon Horan who filmed students for the video.
Gallo, along with Horan and Principal Peter Wininger, developed a framework for the vision they wanted for the submission. Students then interpreted their vision. In the video, students used their creativity to complete the sentences, “I drive with two eyes on the road,” and “I drive with two hands on the wheel.” Hundreds of students were interviewed for the video, and three classes were involved in the technical process of the video, including two communication technology courses, a video production course. Filming and editing of the video took a little over two weeks.
“We started with bare bones, and the kids were really the ones that drove the ideas behind it,” said Horan.
Horan said having student directly involved with the project makes a major impact on them.
“It’s having direct impact cause they’re seeing their peers do it, but also it’s…helping adults that were a part of it too,” said Horan.
For Bristol Central seniors Nick Sassu and Matthew Heffernan, being a part of the video was an eye opener. They hope the message of the video inspires students throughout Bristol and the entire country to make good choices when behind the wheel of vehicle.
“It’s a big message,” said Sassu.
In the video, Heffernan played a victim who violated the message of 2n2.
“It’s not worth one text. You can wait,” said Heffernan. “I hope a lot of people really
look at this video because it has a big impact on us and society.”
From Nov. 9 through Nov. 13, voting for the PSA took place online. Bristol Central not only received an outpouring of support from students’ families and the entire Bristol community, but also received support from other schools.
Gallo said the project initially began as a Bristol initiative before transforming into a state initiative, as the video featured a universal message that could resonate with everyone.
“This would have been impossible if we did not involve every type of community member—whether it be a staff member, a student, parents, grandparents, Board of Education members,” said Gallo, adding how the school appreciates the community’s support. “Our video really resonated with people and I think that was what really got people on board.”
“Connecticut really came together and got behind us,” added Horan.
Besides the video, Bristol Central incorporated Drive 2n2 in a variety of other activities to combat the danger associated with distracted driving. Technology education students teamed up to create vinyl decal that displays the message 2n2. Students will place this decal on the left hand corner of their windshields as a constant reminder to keep two eyes on the road and two hands on the wheel. Bristol Central also created a team of students, community members, staff and administrators to foster positive decision making. The “Rambassadors,” a group of Bristol Central seniors who serve as mentors for incoming freshmen, reached out to the community and the state to put on a week of safe driving initiatives. Last month they kicked off safe driving week with the “Save a Life Tour” in conjunction with the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT). This presentation featured a video of lifelike crashes caused by driver negligence to show the effects of distracted driving. The school’s anatomy and physiology classes participated in Gaylord Hospital’s “Think First Program,” which is taught by a physical therapist from the hospital who focused on ways to prevent distracted driving injuries and helped students understand the affect if brain and spinal cord injuries. The program also featured recovering brain injury patients who spoke with students about their experience and connection to distracted driving. Safe driving week ended with a distracted driving seminar with a distracted driving seminar with Bristol officers, who brought a collision impact simulator and impaired driving goggles for a hands-on lesson in safe driving habits.
Gallo said the $10,000 grant will help Bristol Central maintain a safe driving initiative. She said the goal is to welcome speakers as part of a lecture series every spring to discuss with students the effects of drinking and driving, alcohol abuse, and other issues that affect teenagers today. A portion of the grant funds also will be used to renovate the school auditorium and theater space to continue hosting events.
To see the full video that Bristol Central students made for the competition, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEqMIrwOqFA&feature=youtu.be.
By LISA CAPOBIANCO