Erie teen Emma Badams was named as the $10,000 grand prize winner of the 2015 Edgar Snyder & Associates "Words to be Heard" Scholarship Contest. The contest, in its 9th year, challenged Pennsylvania high school seniors to create projects to help fight underage drinking, drunk driving, or texting while driving.
Emma's winning entry, "Halfway Home," is an original song she wrote to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. Her song was inspired by the story of Jacy Good, a young woman whose life was changed forever when a car accident claimed the lives of both of her parents and left her partially paralyzed. The accident, caused by a truck driver using his cell phone, took place on Jacy's college graduation day in 2008 when she and her family were "halfway home."
The first verse of her song sets the scene for that tragic night:
Graduation night with only forward to go
Family all around and we're halfway home
Then the bright lights turned my world black
Every day I wish I could turn the clocks back
Every day I wish I could turn the clocks back.Lyrics, "Halfway Home"
Emma, a senior at Collegiate Academy, first heard about the contest through her school counselor. "I thought I had a good chance and could do something creative," she said. "I looked up Jacy's story and thought that it was really interesting."
When people listen to her song, Emma hopes they will be impacted by Jacy's story the same way she was. "I would hope that people would hear that texting could cause something as bad as what happened to Jacy's family. Not only are they putting themselves in danger but they're putting others in danger, which is irresponsible."
After composing the song, Emma's mom filmed her performing it on her guitar. Her unique choice to use a song format caught the judges' attention, as most of the over 200 submissions took the form of essays, videos, and PowerPoint presentations.
Since its inception in 2007, the scholarship program has granted over $100,000 in scholarships. The law firm also sponsors additional safe driving initiatives, including the Edgar Snyder & Associates Save a Life Tour, which allows students at local schools to experience the dangers of drunk driving and distracted driving using state-of-the-art simulators.
"At our law firm, we see firsthand the ways drunk driving and distracted driving can ruin lives," said Attorney Edgar Snyder. "That's why it's vital to encourage young people to use their passion and creativity in ways that raise awareness about these dangers."
Singing, songwriting, and playing guitar are longtime hobbies of Emma's, now with bonus of helping her earn a scholarship to pursue her career goals. She plans to put her scholarship toward a degree in Adventure Education and Sustainable Business because she enjoys the outdoors and wants to teach others about nature. She also snowboards and has sailed on the U.S. Brig Niagara.
Not only are they putting themselves in danger but they're putting others in danger which is irresponsible.Emma Badams, Scholarship Winner
The final decisions for the scholarship winners were made by a panel of community judges who advocate teen safety: Debra Iwaniec, President of the Trooper Iwaniec Memorial Foundation and Health & Physical Education Teacher at Yough High School; Trooper Robin M. Mungo, Public Relations 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 for the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office; and Chris Vitale MSN, RN, Injury Prevention Manager at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.
Two runners-up were also awarded scholarships: Heather Rose of Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, PA won $5,000 and Katey Ladika of Forest Hills High School in Windber, PA won $2,500. To view the winning entries and to learn more about the Edgar Snyder & Associates "Words to be Heard" Scholarship Contest click here.
Edgar Snyder & Associates is a plaintiff's personal injury law firm representing people hurt in all types of accidents. The firm also represents injured workers and people who are disabled and in need of Social Security disability benefits. Office locations include Pittsburgh, Altoona, Ebensburg, Erie and Johnstown, Pennsylvania.