May 15, 2014, Pittsburgh, PA - "Are you willing to give up your graduation day… instead of finding another ride home?" This was one question posed in a gripping video created by Chestnut Ridge High School senior Whitney Shetler to discourage her peers from drunk driving and texting while driving.
For her video, Shetler was selected as a winner of the Edgar Snyder & Associates "Words to be Heard" Scholarship Contest. Attorney Edgar Snyder, whose law firm helps accident victims, personally presented Shetler with a $2,500 scholarship at an awards dinner Monday. Since the contest's inception in 2007, the law firm has awarded 70 scholarships totaling over $100,000.
"Words to be Heard" challenges students across Western PA to create projects 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 any other creative format of their choice.
Shetler heard about the scholarship contest through her high school's website. "In our county there have been accidents involving drinking and driving and texting and driving…I figured with prom coming up, it would be a good idea," she said.
By putting the viewer in another person's shoes, the video uses dramatic imagery, text, and music convey a simple message: drunk driving and texting while driving doesn't just affect you, but affects the lives of other people as well. As one scene puts it, "a baby will never take its first steps. A father will never walk his daughter down the aisle… You will ruin your future."
Not only did her video earn her a scholarship, but it is already leaving an impact on her peers. Her school was so impressed by her work that they played it on the school's morning announcements and included it in an email sent to students during prom week. She remarked that when some of her friends got to watch it, "they told me the following week that they still thought about it each time they got in the car."
"Year after year I am blown away by the new ways students present this message to make it resonate with their peers," says Attorney Edgar Snyder. "I think the biggest benefit to the students isn't the scholarship money itself, but the conversations started about the dangers of drunk driving and texting while driving."
The winners of the "Words to be Heard" Scholarship Contest were selected during a luncheon at the offices of Edgar Snyder & Associates by a panel of judges who advocate teen safety in their communities: Debra Iwaniec, President of the Trooper Iwaniec Memorial Foundation and Health & Physical Education Teacher at Yough High School; Trooper Robin M. Mungo, PR Officer of the PA State Police, Troop B Pittsburgh; Brady Sheehan, Duquesne University Student and 2013 Words to be Heard Scholarship winner; Deputy Jason Tarap, Crime Prevention Specialist, Allegheny County Sheriff's Office; and Chris Vitale MSN, RN, Injury Prevention Manager at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.
Shetler plans to attend University of Pittsburgh Johnstown this fall to study nursing. Afterward, she hopes to work in critical care, and ultimately become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA).
Overall, she hopes her video gets the message across to those who need to hear it. "I hope people realize that it's not worth a simple text or one drink," she says.
I hope people realize that it's not worth a simple text or one drink.Whitney Shetler, "Words to be Heard" Scholarship Recipient
Six other winners were recognized for their submissions at the dinner ceremony: Zachary Nimmo of North Allegheny High School (Allegheny Co.) took home the grand-prize scholarship of $5,000. Two additional scholarships for $2,500 were awarded to Taylor Hanson of Greensburg Central Catholic High School (Westmoreland Co.) and Ryan King of Bishop McCort High School (Cambria Co.). Three $1,000 scholarships went to Taylor Childers of Thomas Jefferson High School (Allegheny Co.), Amber Machosky of Albert Gallatin Area High School (Fayette Co.), and Allyn Propheter of Maplewood High School (Crawford Co.).
View all of the winning entries and learn more about the "Words to be Heard" Scholarship Contest here.
Please direct all media inquiries or comments to our Marketing Department
US Steel Tower, 10th Floor
600 Grant Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219