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Coal City, GSW stuents to compete at teen safe driving program

GARDNER – Students at Coal City and Gardner South Wilmington High Schools will need creativity as they compete in this year’s Operation Teen Safe Driving program.

The schools were awarded $2,000 through OTSD, a program that requires students to identify and combat specific traffic safety problems in their communities.

With the funds, student groups will develop teen awareness campaigns to address specific traffic issues.

“The funds are used to pay for the various events, speakers and awards that the student group plans,” said Angelena Dallio, student services coordinator at Gardner South Wilmington High School.

OTSD is a community-based program that began in Tazewell County in 2007, but went statewide in 2008 after it was deemed a success in Tazewell.

Gardner South Wilmington has participated in OTSD since 2008, Dallio said.

This will be Coal City High School’s first year in the program.

“The state police officer who comes to speak to the class approached me about this program,” said Brad Schmitt, driver education instructor at Coal City.

After each school has implemented and completed its safe-driving campaign, students are required to present a report on their program’s effectiveness.

Schmitt said his students will take a survey on seat belt usage before and after the program to gauge how well their campaign worked.

OTSD organizers have divided the state into seven regions and will select five winners from each region based on the student groups’ final presentations.

Coal City and Gardner South Wilmington will compete against 13 other high schools from Region 2, which includes DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will counties.

“We won for our region in 2010 and 2012,” Dallio said.

Winners receive anywhere from $500 to $2,500 in prize money to host a post-prom party, said Robert Brasky, Region 2 coordinator.

“We are mostly looking for creativity,” Brasky said. “If one of the campaigns is really good, the Illinois Department of Transportation may use it for future promotional material.”

The top five schools from every region will be invited to send students to the “Driving Skills for Life, Ride and Drive” sponsored by Ford Motor Company.

There, students will learn safe driving practices from professional drivers at either U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago or the Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in Springfield.

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