May 21, 2013, Pittsburgh, PA – Texting and driving and drunk driving are dangerous risks that teens too often take. That's why Brady Sheehan, a senior at Windber Area High School, has developed "The Safe Driving Haven," an interactive website targeted to peers with important statistics and information.
His work on the website not only is encouraging his peers to drive safely, but has earned him a college scholarship.
Sheehan was selected as a winner of the Edgar Snyder & Associates "Words to be Heard" Scholarship Contest, a program that challenges students across Western PA to create programs discouraging 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 a creative format of their choice.
Sheehan initially found out about the scholarship from his guidance counselor. "I saw that there was opportunity to build a website, which is something I am very interested in." Sheehan is an active member of the Windber Technology Student Association, and plans to study Computer Science at Duquesne University in the fall.
"The Safe Driving Haven" site features statistics about teen auto accidents, prevention tips, and links to helpful outside resources. "The topic piqued my interest because I know a lot of the kids in my grade have a problem with texting and driving," Sheehan said. "We have an active SADD club at our school and had a program recently that reminded me of the website I built."
Attorney Edgar Snyder personally presented Sheehan with the $1,000 scholarship at an awards dinner Monday. Prior to the dinner, Sheehan 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.
"The projects are extremely powerful," said Attorney Snyder. "We see the realities of what happens when people get in accidents, but I believe these students' presentations can really affect change."
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 Alexandria Denne of Gateway Senior High School (Allegheny 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/2013.