None 4 Under 21 exposes teens to tragic consequences of poor decisions
“Think about somebody in your life you can’t live without…Think what life would be without that person in it because you drove drunk and you killed them.” – Aaron Cooksey
The dangers of impaired and distracted driving are present each time we get behind the wheel, but prom and graduation celebrations can put teen drivers at much greater risk as the school year comes to an end.
Each spring, the None 4 Under 21 & Choices Beyond Program offers a unique opportunity to expose high school seniors to the devastating consequences of poor decisions from multiple perspectives.
Students hear from those whose loved ones were killed at the hands of an impaired or distracted driver, and those who claimed innocent lives as a result of their choices. As they leave the program, students encounter several local families who suffered similar tragedies honoring their deceased loved ones during the Walk of Remembrance.
Elk & Elk Presenting Sponsor of None 4 Under 21 & Choices Beyond
Elk & Elk presented this year’s program in partnership with Portage County Safe Communities on April 18 at Hiram College. Partner Marilena DiSilvio was once again invited to emcee.
“This cause is near and dear to my heart because my mother-in-law was the victim of a drunk driving accident,” said DiSilvio of her involvement. “Very fortunately her life was spared, but her injuries were significant and I’m here today in her honor and in a tribute to all those who have lost loved ones.”
DiSilvio went on to say that her two teenage sons who attended the program were “overwhelmed” by the powerful stories of loss and consequences. She hopes they will carry the lessons they learned at the event with them throughout high school and beyond.
“For Elk & Elk, it is important to support the None 4 Under 21 & Choices Beyond event and its message,” added DiSilvio. “If in any way we can help to sustain this program, to support this program, to promote this program as we have done and will continue to do, then we have contributed in a very small measure to hopefully help save a life.”
Speakers highlight multiple perspectives of consequences of poor decisions
The first speaker of the morning, Marc Streem, shared his family’s experience losing their 14-year-old son, Ryan, in a car crash in 2001.
“I’m not a TV commercial, I’m a real person. I live in this community. I coach in this community. I work in this community. My son was one of their peers,” said Streem. “I’m somebody they see every day and could walk into on the street. I think that brings a little credibility to it and makes Ryan more real.”
Streem has been featured as a speaker in every None 4 Under 21 & Choice Beyond Program since it was launched 15 years ago.
“You can never measure what didn’t happen. We can’t quantify it and say 10 people didn’t get into a car accident because they were drinking and driving,” said Streem of the program’s impact. “But if kids are going home and talking to their parents or talking to each other then we know it’s at least in their mind and at least they’re thinking about it. That’s all we can ask.”
Streem’s devastating story was a stark contrast to Aaron Cooksey’s firsthand account of the series of poor decisions that ultimately led to him killing his best friend in a drunk driving crash.
“Live your life how you want to live it, but let others have a chance to live to see another day,” cautioned Cooksey, who began speaking to students about his experience while serving his four-year prison sentence. “Don’t let anybody else be a consequence. Don’t let anybody else lose their life because of your decisions.”
Students also heard from Jennifer Jilek, an inmate who is currently serving a 10-year sentence for aggravated vehicular homicide, drunk driving and leaving the scene of an accident. While driving home after a night of drinking, Jilek ran over and killed her neighbor and the woman’s dog.
Start the conversation with your teen
Even if you don’t condone underage drinking or believe your child would text behind the wheel, it’s important to address the dangers and establish a plan in case they ever find themselves in an unsafe situation.
Use Elk & Elk’s Drunk & Distracted Driving Pledge to start the conversation with your teen driver.