(Editor's note: The following information was submitted by the administration of Shawsheen Tech.)
Three seniors at Shawsheen Valley Technical High School, Megan Walsh, Brianna Lynch and Jessi Lloyd, all of Tewksbury, wanted more than just a good score on their final SkillsUSA Career Pathways presentation.
Sure, the girls hope to make an impact on the judges when the project is unveiled at the SkillsUSA competition later this month, but mostly, the Shawsheen Tech trio wanted to make an impact on their classmates and friends, and save some lives in the process.
On February 27, Walsh, Lynch and Lloyd presented a project on distracted driving, showing a video and designing a pledge form for the junior class to sign that had students promise not to text or talk on the phone while driving their cars.
A survey handed out by the girls revealed that 62 percent of the students surveyed admitted that they have been texting and driving in the past.
Along with signing the pact, the juniors were also given air fresheners-type hangers for the inside of their cars to serve as a reminder of the presentation. The reminders, which were donated by the company Scentisphere, smelled of burnt rubber.
“The students chose burnt rubber as the scent because their movie theme is that if you text and drive, burnt rubber may be the last smell you ever smell,” said Shawsheen Tech instructor Heidi Lloyd.
As is the case with many of the projects done at Shawsheen Tech, several of the school’s vocations chipped in as the pieces were printed at Shawsheen using the scented varnish.
The presentation started with Lynch talking about a scenario where a student gets into an accident while texting.
Walsh then presented some staggering statistics, like 6,000 deaths and about a half-million injuries caused annually from texting and driving. Walsh also reported than 10 percent of the time that people text and drive, they are outside of the lane that they should be driving in.
The school then welcomed Massachusetts state trooper Michael Miscall to its campus and Miscall spoke to Shawsheen’s junior class for more than 20 minutes. He explained some of the terrible accidents he has seen in person that related to distracted driving and spoke in great detail about the families of the people involved in these accidents and what it is like to knock on a door in the middle of the night to deliver tragic news.
Jessi Lloyd finished the presentation by announcing the distribution of the pledge cards and air fresheners.
“I feel that the presentation went really well,” said Lloyd, who will attend Middlesex Community College in the fall. “I think the students were able to come away with some new insights. At the end of the presentation I saw a girl go up to the state trooper and tell him she was afraid to drive with her phone and that she hoped this video would show her friends why.”
“Everyone was paying attention,” said Lynch, who will be attending Quinnipiac University in the fall to study film and media production. “Personally, I hope to be able to leave an impact on the students and even the adults who watched this presentation. We probably saved one or two lives from ending by getting people to think.”
Lynch said simply clicking on the evening news was enough of a motivator to choose distracted driving as the subject of the project. She pointed to a recent bus crash in Kansas that caused several deaths.
“Someone has to take a stand against it,” she said. “Otherwise, it will just keep on happening.”
“Teenagers and even adults don’t realize how dangerous it is to text and drive,” added Walsh, who will attend Salem State University in the fall with a double major of psychology and criminal justice. “I hope that students learned that, especially as new drivers, texting and driving are causing an imminent danger to not only them, but everyone else on the road.”
Heidi Lloyd was pleased following the day’s events and the work of her students.
“They did a great job,” she said. “I’m really proud of them. So far the response has been overwhelming, pledge cards have been coming in steadily. I am hopeful that we have reached more than just a few students and with any luck, saved a few lives.”