Etcetera - 02/12/10

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The Walla Walla County Traffic Safety Task Force honored Berney Elementary and Walla Walla High School representatives during the task force's annual awards luncheon at the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center.

Berney Elementary, represented by kindergarten teacher Lori Thomas and parent Sandy Stiller-Patton, received an educational outreach award for their efforts funding car seat education programs, according to the Walla Walla Public Schools Jan. 29 Week in Review online newsletter.

Berney has also participated in the Buckle Up For Safety Program each year. Berney staff dedicated their effort to honor the life of student Vincent Gwinn, who died in a car crash in 2009. Michelle Gwinn, Vincent's mom, was also in attendance as the school's guest.

"There are several families in the Walla Walla Valley whose children are riding safer because of the efforts of the Berney Elementary family," said Nancy McClenny-Walters, WWCTSTF Target Zero manager.

"Thank you for turning your tragic loss into something beautiful and beneficial for others."

Wa-Hi, represented by teacher Jillian DeBritz and the Wa-Hi ASB Leadership Class, received a youth initiative award for its support of the "Every 15 Minutes Program" during the past 12 years.

That program discourages students from drinking and driving.

"Since that first program at Wa-Hi, we have expanded it to reach over 8,000 students in Walla Walla County including nearly 5,000 at Wa-Hi alone," Nancy said.

"Each year the task force and Wa-Hi ASB Leadership work together to reach out to the seniors at Wa-Hi with our simple message -- should you now or in the future ever choose to drink alcohol, please, please don't get behind the wheel -- (in other words) don't drink and drive."

Jillian said she has seen the benefits of the program.

"Fortunately, and we'd like to think in part due to the strength of the Every 15 minutes program, there have been no youth fatalities following graduation or prom since it began here in 1998," DeBritz said.

"School administration has encouraged students to participate in the program and have encouraged teachers to be a part of the educational opportunity as well by allowing our officers and paramedics to use classroom time to educate seniors on the possible tragic consequences of driving under the influence."

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at annieeveland@wwub.com or afternoons at 526-8313.

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