When the National PTA announced the recipients of its 2013 Outstanding Advocacy Awards yesterday, it honored a student for the first time. Megan Gardner of the South Valley Junior High PTSA in Liberty, Mo., was recognized for her exceptional display of advocacy on the issue of distracted driving.
As a student representative for her local PTA unit, Gardner worked with other student representatives in Missouri to draft a resolution on distracted driving and spoke at both the Missouri State PTA and National PTA conventions to build support. Both the State and National PTA passed the resolutions.
Additionally, she mobilized members by hosting a booth at the Missouri PTA Legislative Forum for attendees to sign a pledge to avoid distracted driving. Now, Gardner is working with other students to develop a public service announcement on the issue of distracted driving.
This issue has garnered more attention due to mounting evidence on the dangers of distracted driving, whether it involves talking on cellphones, texting or driver fatigue. Teenagers from Denver to New York have launched campaigns to raise awareness among their peers about distracted driving. According to the National Road Safety Foundation, distraction is a major factor in teen crashes that result in the deaths of approximately 5,000 teenagers every year.
"Distracted driving is an epidemic on our roadways, and these new findings show that our youngest drivers are particularly at risk," said U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood last April during National Distracted Driving Awareness month.
Other recipients of the PTA's Outstanding Advocacy Awards include Justin Raber of West Virginia, the Florida PTA and the 15th District PTA in Kentucky. Raber was honored for spearheading efforts in the last Congress to encourage the West Virginia delegation to cosponsor the Family Engagement in Education Act. He also authored numerous op-eds about the potentially devastating impact of sequestration on education programs. The Florida PTA was recognized for its comprehensive campaign related to Florida's Parent Empowerment Bill, while Kentucky's 15th District PTA was lauded for its efforts to educate parents on the Common Core State Standards in their state.
They will be recognized during the National PTA Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C., to be held March 12-14.
"The recipients of the Outstanding Advocacy Awards represent what it means to take action for all children," said National PTA President Betsy Landers.