Project Drive Sober: Schools educating youth

Posted: 4:18 PM, Nov 13, 2018
Updated: 2018-12-13 15:33:35Z

It's the day Marla Hall can never forget.

"I think about it every night before I go to bed," she said.

It's the day her son died, and it's the day she saw first hand the consequences of drinking and driving.

"I'm mad," Marla said. "I know. It gets me quite furious about what's going on."

It's also the day that Marla made it a mission to enact change.

"I never realized how bad it was out there," Marla said.

Marla started the Eliminate Drunk Driving Education Foundation. It's her goal to share the consequences of driving impaired to young drivers, and she's talked at school districts. Her goal is one the Appleton Area School District is also taking on.

"I think that we can't get enough information out to students about what could happen as a result of drinking and driving," Appleton Area School District marketing facilitator Cyndi Pavelski said.

Pavelski leads a student marketing team at the Appleton Area School District. She'll help these students create a public relations campaign to raise awareness on an issue. Previous students have chosen to promote safe and sober driving.

"When high school students are passionate about a cause, they're more likely to stick with everything that needs to go into putting out a really public message, and they're more able to get others to jump on board and join the cause or the effort," Pavelski said.

The students are finding creative and powerful ways to spread that message of sober driving.

"We did drunk goggles with the Appleton Police Department, where we had during our lunch hours at Appleton North, students had the opportunity to put on drunk goggles," Pavelski said. "That was an eye-opening experience for a lot of students."

District leaders on this issue say teaching safe and sober driving is a two part approach.

"What we like to do is take kind of a 30,000 foot view of it, and talk about enhancing protective behaviors and reducing risk behaviors," AASD alcohol, tobacco, drug abuse and mental health liaison Cindy Czarnik-Neimeyer said.

It's not just in the form of a lecture. An example is P.A.R.T.Y. at the PAC - Preventing Alcohol and Risk Related Trauma in Youth. Thousands of high schoolers are seeing the importance of safe and sober driving.

"We have people who have survived drunk driving accidents talk about their experience, and that's a really powerful program for students," Czarnik-Neimeyer said.

Combined with other efforts, it gets children hearing the message in a variety of different ways - a message school leaders say they need to get across.

"This can't be a one and done, this has to be part of our culture that we're having these discussions with students," Pavelski said.

It's all so that students today, don't have to share a story and a tragedy with Marla Hall tomorrow.

"Worst day of my life," Marla said.

As part of this story, we also reached out to national officials with Mothers Against Drunk Driving. They tell us they used to have in-school presentations, but they believe with the high costs involved in running those programs, the impact is far greater when the parents educate their children at home.

We'll have this full story tonight on NBC26 at 10:00.