Ava Missouri High School Students are State Champions in 2007 Battle of the Belt -- Seat Belt Safety The students are actively participating in a lobby campaign to have Missouri adopt a primary seat belt law and to have it named Jake's Law in memory of an Ava student who died in a car crash this year, even though he wore his seat belt. Students and faculty will travel to Jefferson City on Feb. 13 to lobby legislators after having a press conference where they will all be wearing their Jake's Law bright blue T-shirts.
Ava Schools dubbed their efforts Project Life Guard. 21 school days saw a volunteer from the Ava community man a LIFE GUARD STAND and observe when students left the school parking lot. Those who weren't wearing their seat belts received a big WHISTLE to stop and re-do. Those who were wearing seat belts were given a snack -- cookies, granola bars being among the treats.
21 days is determined to be the length of time it takes to develop a habit. The students took a break, then had another observance from the LIFE GUARD STAND. The students had a 100% success rate of weariing their seat belts. The favorite day was when the Lunch Ladies observed and handed out their famous chocolate chip cookies Some students were observed leaving the parking lot, going around the block and entering again 2 or 3 times in order to be observed and get more cookies. The administration didn't mind -- they were glad to keep the kids safe one more time. On Feb. 9, as students left the celebratory assembly, the LIFE GUARD STAND would be manned by local Kiwanis volunteers to make sure everyone leaving wore their seat belts and could be awarded a cookie.
This year's competition aimed at carrying on the legacy and memory of two Ava students who were victims of traffic accidents, Mandy Hampton and Jacob Yates. Mrs. Nash, of the Ava faculty spoke at the Feb. 9 assembly, relating that in the past 20 years, 15 high school students from Ava have died in car crashes.
This year, elementary 5 & 6 grade students particpated in contests to promote seat belt safety. They wrote letters to friends or family aimed at convincing the reader to wear seat belts. The posters were aimed at the same target. Local Radio station, KKOZ will be using some of the letters in psa announcements. The 5th& 6th graders attended the assembly and particpated in a class rally cheer with the high school students. The senior class won the rally by having the loudest cheer roared in response to the question: "Are you going to wear your seat belt?"
At the beginning of the 3rd quarter, students were assigned a project to designed psa. Several groups created videos about the Battle of the Belt. one of which was shown to the assembly because it's silent theme commemorated the fifteen students who had been lost to their friends and family
The Assembly was broadcast at 2pm on Feb. 9, by KKOZ radio.
Speakers included KKOZ owner, Ron Wallace who told the students "This state championship is more than a sports championship, it is a life changing activity. You should all be very proud -- this is is a big deal--a huge deal."
Faculty member, Mrs. Nash commended the students and thanked the families of students who had been injured or died in car crashes, for the courage to stand up and support the students through Project Life Guard.
Student Eric Walker spoke to the assembly, reminding the students that a car isn't a tank. "Compared it is like a little pimple on wheels." He related details of a car crash involving his sister "I am lucky you still know my sister." because this wreck only allowed for one survivor. Had she had passengers they wouldn't have survived. Walker said that in speech class this year he had to begin speeches saying "Hello, I am Eric Walker and you are lucky to know me". He closed his remarks at the assembly saying "I am Eric Walker and I hope I am lucky enough to get to know you."
Brandy Little, car crash survivor, introduced her father, Steven Little of Cox paramedics. Little told the students he had never been more nervous at a speech because he had never spoken at a time when there was more impact to the speech than right now. He told the students that fatal car crashes are world changing because the victim may have lived to be President or trauma nurses, scientist who finds a cure; we will never know. He commended Mr. Garrison who has headed up the program. It hasn't been easy; there has been criticism and scoffing about the program.
Student Micheal Williams spoke to students of his experience as a front seat passenger in a wreck where he and the driver were wearing seat belts and walked away. A passenger in the rear seat who didn't wear the belt, was injured, but survived. He thanked the people who supported the LIFE GUARD STAND. "The shirts they wear say 'We love you." . Williams added to those people, "I love you, please keep being annoying. I know of one life you have saved."
Jacob Yates parents spoke eloquently to students. Jacobs mother told the students how Jake was a seat belt wearer. She thanked the students for accepting and including Jake when he moved there as a Junior. He considered Ava his home school. She said sure some wrecks, like the one Jake died in, don't make much difference if seat belts are worn, but most accidents can be survived with seat belts. She, to emphasize the parents' perspective, quoted a comment she had read: "When a wife loses a husband, she is called a widow. When a husband loses a wife, he is a widower. When a child loses parents, the child is an orphan. But there is no word for parents who lose a child, it is too terrible for a word." Jake's father spoke and told the students, "We take the lives of all of you personally. When something tragic happens, people besides you are hurt."
The Battle of the Belt began about five years ago through the efforts of trauma nurses at St. Johns, according to Pam Holt, Trauma nurse. It was modeled on a program in Virginia. At first people thought it was a weight loss program. Last year, responsiblity for the program was turned over to MODOT where the program continues state wide BATTLE OF THE BELT. There is a statewide award, which Ava won and regional awards. Mountain Grove, MO won a regional award this year by improving their record by 39 points.
KKOZ radio interviewed Dale RIcks, district manager of MODOT-- MODOTt \has had a number one goal for highway safety-- to reduce fatalities to below 1000. Numbers were 1200 to 1300 fatalities. With the goal, MODOT has seen a 15% drop this past year. The younger generation has the lowest percentage of seatbelt use. College and high school students only score about 50%, overall older people have a score of 80%. . Ava's students had a 100% record.