Pittsburgh, PA – When we reach for our phone in our car, we usually think, "This text will only take a second." But Kurlya Yan thinks ahead – to what might happen if life is cut short by sending that text. It's that forward thinking that earned her $2,500 in scholarship funds.
Kurlya, a senior at Franklin Regional High School and resident of Murrysville (Westmoreland County), was awarded $2,500 after being named runner-up of the 2016 Edgar Snyder & Associates "Words to be Heard" Scholarship Contest for her video.
Kurlya's video is narrated by the voice of her youngest sister writing a letter. Through the narration of the letter and flashbacks of home videos, viewers learn that the recipient of the letter, an older sister, has recently passed away in an accident caused by texting and driving.
Kurlya came up with the idea for her submission by thinking what would influence her, as a young person, to stay away from texting and driving. "I would never forgive myself for making my sisters experience immense loss at such a young age," she said, adding that she sought to tell the story from a younger sibling's more "naïve and honest perspective."
The scholarship contest, in its 10th year, challenged high school seniors from Western and Central Pennsylvania to create projects that discourage other teens from drunk driving and texting while driving. Since 2007, Edgar Snyder & Associates has granted 80 scholarships amounting to over $100,000 in scholarship money.
"One of the hallmarks of this scholarship contest is that it allows high school students to use their own voices," said Attorney Edgar Snyder. "Young people learn a lot from their peers, and when a peer warns you about the dangers of distracted driving, it can be that much more effective."
Kurlya agrees that a warning coming from a fellow teen can have a big impact, especially in today's technology-oriented society. "The frustration of having to wait to respond to a text is nothing compared to the despair loved ones feel after loss," said Kurlya.
Kurlya will use her scholarship to help attend Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. She plans to pursue the major "Human Biology, Health, and Society," with the long-term goal of attending medical school.
Kurlya's entry was one of three selected as winners out of over 150 entries. Finalists in the scholarship contest were reviewed by and voted on by a panel of community judges at the Pittsburgh-area office of Edgar Snyder & Associates. The panel included: Debra Iwaniec, President of the Trooper Iwaniec Memorial Foundation and Health & Physical Education Teacher at Yough High School; Kathy Strotmeyer, Southwestern Pennsylvania Injury Prevention Coordinator, American Academy of Pediatrics; Deputy Jason Tarap, Crime Prevention Specialist for the Allegheny Sheriff's Office; and Chris Vitale MSN, RN, Injury Prevention Manager at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.
Two other students were also awarded scholarships: Gabrielle Stewart of Clarion Area High School (Clarion County) won the $10,000 grand prize and Benjamin Crawford of Purchase Line Jr./Sr. High School (Indiana County) won $5,000. To view all of the winning entries and to learn more about the Edgar Snyder & Associates "Words to be Heard" Scholarship Contest, visit www.edgarsnyder.com/scholarship.