A group of high school students lounged around a living room, chugging alcoholic drinks and clanking their red plastic cups together.
“I’ll drive,” said one of the boys, offering to take his friends to the park. “I’m the least drunk.”
This scene is part of a three-minute video created by high school students in the Washington Hospital’s peer leadership program. In this year’s video, students brainstormed ideas for a scenario that is not uncommon, but perhaps more complex than the usual drunk driving awareness campaign.
Mackenzie Martin, a junior at Trinity High School who wrote the video’s storyboard, said she and other students were influenced by a public speaker who shared his personal story about negligently killing several people while driving drunk. Like the character in the student video who ultimately hits a pedestrian, the man was the least intoxicated in his group of friends.
“It’s been pretty personal because I’m a teenager, so obviously this is something that affects me and my friends,” Martin said. “If I know people who are drinking and getting in trouble, that’s scary.”
Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers, and about a third are alcohol-related, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission.
The video was dedicated to the memory of McGuffey High School student Sierra Minor, who died in a car accident July 31. Four passengers were seriously injured, and police suspect that alcohol was involved.
“That kind of hit close to home because she was from this area,” Martin said. Mary Jo Podgurski, director of the outreach program, said Minor’s family donated money to the peer group to promote the video. The video, which is available on YouTube, was written, directed and acted out by students in the peer program and Real Talk Performers group. The Washington Drug and Alcohol Commission, which sponsors the program, provided a grant that covered the costs of hiring Creative Visions Multimedia Services in Washington, which filmed the video. Washington emergency medical workers also volunteered their time to make the video more realistic.
Natalie Gloady, student director of the video, said the message encourages “smart decision-making.” She said the issue of drunk driving is widespread, and not contained to just the Washington area.
“I personally know a lot of students I went to high school with that are involved in drinking and driving,” said Gloady, a Washington High School graduate and Waynesburg University freshman. “It’s a hot topic across the country.”
Podgurski, who has been helping peer leaders create videos for four years, said the students are passionate about helping other teens make positive choices.
“One of the things that I like to convey to adults who don’t know young people is how many of them are very serious about making good choices,” she said. “The bulk of the young people, they’re just like adults. They consistently want to do well.”
Podgurski said the peer leadership program is seeking new funding sources because the Washington Drug and Alcohol Commission may not be able to renew its grant for next year. Anyone interested in helping to fund the program can call Podgurski at 412-877-4906.
To watch the video, search Podgurski’s name on YouTube and click on the video titled “I’m the Least Drunk.”