May 21, 2013, Pittsburgh, PA – Drinking and driving is an issue that hits close to home for Gateway High School senior Alexandria Denne, who was selected as a winner of this year's Edgar Snyder & Associates "Words to be Heard" Scholarship Contest.
The contest challenges students across Western PA to create programs discouraging their peers from underage drinking, drunk driving, or texting while driving. Students had the option of submitting entries in the form of videos, PowerPoint presentations, websites, essays, or the creative format of their choice.
Denne's winning presentation starts off with facts and statistics, and then shifts into a personal story about Timmy, a man who was involved in a drunk driving motorcycle accident. Denne gives a play-by-play of the accident, the impact it had on his family, and the lifelong medical complications that resulted. At the very end of the presentation, Denne reveals that the main character in this story, Timmy, is actually her father.
The final slide reads, "Is drinking and driving worth my life or someone else's innocent life? How will my decision affect my family? Could I have prevented this? These are all questions that need to be considered before you pick up a drink and your keys. I wish my father would have thought about it."
Is drinking and driving worth my life or someone else's innocent life?... I wish my father would have thought about it.
Denne originally created the presentation for Expect Respect, a program that raises awareness about teen dating violence and regularly works with SADD, but never got the chance to present it.
Attorney Edgar Snyder personally awarded Denne with the $1,000 scholarship at an awards dinner Monday. Prior to the dinner, Denne and the other scholarship recipients participated in a live Google Plus Hangout with Attorney Snyder to talk about the inspiration behind their projects and future plans for college.
Denne will use the scholarship to fund her music therapy studies at University of Pittsburgh Greensburg, a field of interest inspired by her involvement in band. "My band director's daughter is in the school for the deaf and blind, so we go there to perform. They have music therapists there who teach kids to communicate through music," said Denne. "Basically, you teach them to use songs to tell how they feel. We let the kids beat on the drums and they have so much fun."
More than 300 entries were submitted and evaluated by a panel of judges who advocate teen safety in their communities: Corporal Christopher Murray of the PA State Police, Maddie Seel, a junior at Shaler Area High School, Deputy Sheriff Jason Tarap of the Allegheny County Sherrif's Office, and Chris Vitale, manager of the injury prevention program at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh UPMC.
"They all covered the information really well. But what is interesting is how they came up with different ways to tell their story in a personal way," said Vitale, a second-year judge for the competition. "They seem much older than high school kids. There's a lot of wisdom that comes out in the projects that is always surprising."
Corporal Murray was especially impressed by the time and effort put into all of the projects. "It's encouraging that there are teens out there that recognize a problem and are doing something about it," he said.
Six other winners were recognized for their submissions at the dinner ceremony. Katherine Zhou of North Allegheny High School (Allegheny Co.) took home the grand-prize scholarship of $5,000. Three scholarships for $2,500 were awarded to Matthew Clark of Pine-Richland High School (Allegheny Co.), Lindsay Spinabelli of Peters Township High School (Washington Co.), and Jesse Vensel of McGuffey High School (Washington Co.). Two additional $1,000 scholarships went to Brady Sheehan of Windber Area High School (Somerset Co.), and Michael Trowbridge of Bellefonte Area High School (Centre Co.).
Since the scholarship contest began in 2007, Edgar Snyder & Associates has awarded 63 scholarships totaling $86,000. To view the winning entries and to learn more about the Edgar Snyder & Associates "Words to be Heard" Scholarship Contest visit www.edgarsnyder.com/giving-back/drive-safe/scholarship/.