In 2012, two things happened that would play a part in shaping Madeline Seel's future. The first occurred in March of that year. Adam, her brother's best friend, died in a motorcycle accident when another driver ran a stop sign, hitting Adam and killing him instantly. Adam was like a second brother to Madeline, and she and her family were heartbroken.
In the midst of her grief, the second important incident happened. Shortly after Adam's death, a friend and mentor encouraged her to find a silver lining and create something positive. Madeline took his suggestion to heart.
Soon after Madeline's friend suggested she figure out a way to turn her grief over Adam's death into something constructive, she founded Y.I.E.L.D. (Youth Involved Education of Legal Drivers). The program was hosted through Shaler Area High School's Youth Advocacy League, which aims to give students a voice on important platforms. Traffic safety, specifically distracted driving, became Madeline's platform. "I wanted to be part of the movement to ensure that no other family has to experience the death of someone they love due to careless driving," she said.
Y.I.E.L.D.'s first year was successful and included a day-long conference held in Ross Township for over 200 students, advisors, and Pittsburgh-area health professionals. That's how we met Madeline. She was familiar with our law firm's work to spread safe driving messages, and she reached out to us about Edgar attending the conference as a speaker. He did, and he came away impressed with the summit itself as well as the response that the students had to the messages they heard.
Though Madeline has graduated from Shaler, the impact she made remains and Y.I.E.L.D. is still in operation. This year, it is being held by The Allegheny County Youth Traffics Safety Council with support from community partners and donors.
Madeline's safe driving advocacy work didn't stop with Y.I.E.L.D. Through the work she'd done with the conference, she was introduced to Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and their Student Leadership Council (SLC). She applied and was selected to serve on this council of students from across the country to strategize and implement programming for SADD National, as well as help plan the organization's national conference.
"My time was so rewarding on the SLC that the next year I decided to apply for their Student of the Year position," said Madeline. She was chosen, and was then responsible for heading the council of students and being the student voice of SADD National. Her role as Student of the Year at the national conference was enriching. "It was wonderful to see the best of the best come and talk to us all about how their life has been forever changed by bad decisions or what they have learned from their experiences throughout their own youth," she explained.
During the conference, Madeline and the other members of student leadership were responsible for engaging in conversation with attendees, leading activities, and facilitating the conference however possible.
In Madeline's opinion, teen-to-teen programming and initiatives really make a difference. "My experience working with my peers has been a positive one. Peer-to-peer programming is proven to be effective…. The idea is that if teens are talking to each other and spreading these messages about avoiding destructive decisions… teens will be more receptive," Madeline explained. "I have seen countless examples in my high school experience where teachers or adults just ‘talk at' students. This removed approach does not connect with students at all."
It is because of students like Madeline that real change among the younger generation is a possibility. As she says, "It is important to not lose faith in us because we truly are the future. Some of us teenagers are stubborn, some seem to not care, but deep down, we all do." All of us at Edgar Snyder & Associates would like to say thank you to Madeline for being someone who does care. We wish her the best of luck in the future and have no doubt that she will continue to change lives no matter what she decides to do.
There are many ways you can get involved in the fight against dangerous driving. You can do something as simple as offering to be a designated driver or helping friends and family arrange for a ride. You can also sign our Safe & Sober pledge or tell a high school senior about our "Words to be Heard" college scholarship contest, which encourages students to develop their own safe driving program.
Above all else, put your cell phone away when you're behind the wheel and never drive after you drink. Committing to sober and distraction-free driving is an easy way to make a big impact.