Annual program empowers teens to make safe choices during prom and graduation season
On Tuesday, April 17, nearly 2,000 seniors from high schools across Portage County and surrounding areas traveled to Hiram College for the 16th Annual None 4 Under 21 and Choices Beyond.
Each year at the start of prom and graduation season, Elk & Elk partners with Portage County Safe Communities to present the program to empower students to make safe decisions. Troopers for a Safer Ohio and various other local businesses and agencies also take part in making the event a success.
As students entered the venue, they were confronted by a realistic mock crash scene featuring first responders and student volunteers.
Elk & Elk Managing Partner Jay Kelley emceed the program.
“The people in this room, the police officers, the teachers, the people at my office, the first responders – they’re doing this because they care,” Kelley told the students. “They’ve shared their consequences in hopes that you make better decisions.”
Three speakers shared their personal experiences with the devastating aftermath of crashes involving impaired and distracted driving.
Marc Streem, who has been a featured speaker every year since the program’s launch, offered the parent and family perspective of the loss of a child. Streem’s 14-year-old son was killed in a crash in 2001. He hopes students will think of the things they learned at the event whenever they’re confronted with difficult decisions.
“We hope that it provides some kind of impact on the young people who will be here today to realize the possibilities of the tragic results of a poor decision,” says Streem.
Aaron Cooksey and inmate Jen Jilek warned students about the lasting consequences of their actions. Cooksey killed his best friend in a crash while driving impaired. Jilek was sentenced to 10 years in prison for aggravated vehicular homicide after killing a woman and dog while driving drunk.
As the program concluded, students came face-to-face with local families whose loved ones were killed at the hands of an impaired or distracted driver during the Walk of Remembrance.
According to Ken Hopkins, he and his wife participate in the Walk of Remembrance each year because they feel it adds meaning to the tragic loss of their son to a drunk driver.
“I think it’s important for them to see that it’s not just on TV. It’s here, it’s at home, it’s in their neighborhood – it’s real,” said Nicole Svab, whose husband was killed by a drunk driver.
With prom and graduation season upon us, there’s no better time to discuss the dangers of impaired and distracted driving. Share our None 4 Under 21 and Choices Beyond 2018 recap video with your teen driver to help start the conversation.