The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

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April 19, 2024

Students choose happiness during two-day event

Photo+by+Tomas+Castro
Photo by Tomas Castro


Today for Tomorrow, a two day in-school event focusing on the impacts and importance of positive and negative student choices, took place April 6-7.

In light of the recent River Road accident, SGA modified the originally planned Every 15 Minutes event to a less graphic program.

“The idea was to reiterate the same ideas kids hear all the time about drinking and driving, but help people think about what’s ahead and how to make good choices as well,” parent volunteer psychologist Anne Adelman said.

The altered program consisted of an assembly, videos, discussions and a carnival. While the first day emphasized the consequences of impaired driving, the second day promoted happiness and positive decisions.

On the first day, students attended one of two shifts for an hour-long assembly during third period. Assemblies featured speeches from Officer Bud Nowland, safe-driving advocate Rich Leotta and senior Leah Bouvier. Chemistry teacher Ann-Marie O’Donoghue and English teacher Omari James each spoke during one of the shifts.

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“Friends and family members don’t choose to get sick and leave us,” O’Donoghue said. “But when you have been drinking or doing drugs and you choose to drive, you are choosing to put your life and the lives of all around you at risk.”

Speeches were accompanied by letters from various Whitman parents about hopes for their children and a student-made video picturing a staged scene of driving while intoxicated.

Leotta, who lost his son, Officer Noah Leotta, to a drunk driver in late 2015, delivered the keynote speech. He detailed his son’s story and Noah’s Law, a bill requiring breathalyzer ignition locks in the cars of convicted drunk drivers.

After the emotional address, he called for the community to take action to pass the bill by April 11, the final day of the legislative session.

“Drunk drivers are domestic terrorists on the road,” Leotta said. “Noah’s Law will reduce deaths by an estimated 20 to 40 percent.”

Sophomore Hope Hilsenrath, a participant in the video, said the event changed her perspective on drinking, as well as that of her peers.

“I realized how many lives are affected by just one drunk driver,” Hilsenrath said. “[The program] hit home to a lot of students that not only driving under the influence, but drinking in general is a problem.”

To further stress the message, in each class period after the assembly, teachers showed video clips and held discussions regarding the negative ramifications of unsafe decisions, especially when driving.

Following the seriousness of Wednesday’s assembly, the SGA centered Thursday’s program around good choices students can make by organizing a carnival of fun, safe activities for students.

Stations around the school ranged from professional massages to watching “Friends” in the auditorium to pieing teachers in the face. Many students, including freshman Jacob Kuhn, appreciated the lighter atmosphere after an emotional previous day, he said.

“The first day was very serious and important, so today was a fun, upbeat change,” Kuhn said. “[The carnival] was a great way to end the program.”

To conclude Today for Tomorrow, during seventh period, students wrote three-step action plans to achieve a goal and watched a follow-up of the video shown at the assembly.

Junior Justine Henninger said the event had profound impacts on her perception of life and her teachers.

“It was so powerful to have our teachers speak because teachers are the people students look up to most,” Henninger said. “Seeing them so vulnerable and having them be so open was extremely meaningful to me.”

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Lily Friedman
Lily Friedman, Online Editor-in-Chief

Grade: 12

 

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