Driving home a message

William Tennent High School wins Teen Driver Safety Video PSA Challenge second year in a row

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

A powerful message: William Tennent seniors Maryna Nazaruk and Mina Abdulkareem produced a touching, heart-wrenching and educational 30-second piece that earned the school its second consecutive win in TMA Bucks’ Teen Driver Safety Video PSA Challenge powered by Comcast. SOURCE: TMA BUCKS

When it comes to promoting safety awareness for young drivers, the students at William Tennent High School don’t mess around. For the second year in a row, the Warminster-based school came out victorious in TMA Bucks’ Teen Driver Safety Video PSA Challenge powered by Comcast.

Tennent, which also earned first place in 2015, was voted the winner over nine other Bucks County high schools by teen writers from the Reality staff of the Bucks County Courier Times and The Intelligencer. The school’s submission was a touching, heart-wrenching and educational 30-second piece produced by seniors and lifelong besties Mina Abdulkareem and Maryna Nazaruk.

Viewers instantly understand the dynamic of the girls’ friendship as the video begins with clips of them together as infants and toddlers. Fast-forward to their teen years, and the two are shown driving, not a care in the world. Venti Starbucks cups in hand, it’s evident the two are distracted as they dance, laugh and blatantly take their eyes off the road to enjoy the scenery.

But it’s not until Nazaruk, who is behind the wheel, takes her phone out to send a quick text that disaster strikes. The piercing sound of the crash is heard as the words “Never forget whose life you are risking” appear on the screen, ominous music playing in the background.

The video concludes with two brief clips that truly drive home the message. The first shows both girls happily walking down the Tennent hallway. The second shows only Nazaruk.

“Our main inspiration was the thought of losing each other to something that could be so easily prevented,” Nazaruk said. “We hope to bring awareness to the issue of distracted driving and make a difference.”

The two seniors are part of a media production class taught by Dina McCaffery, who can personally relate to the all-too-common story told in their video. At 16 years old, one of her closest friends was killed by a drunken driver.

“I think it resonated with my students,” McCaffery said of her experience. “Mina and Maryna are good friends and they thought about how something so awful would affect their lives and they took it from there. I am so proud that this is the third time we are winning the PSA contest. Distracted driving is something that impacts everyone, and as a parent and a teacher, I hope messages such as the ones conveyed in these PSAs really make a difference.”

Despite the relateable message and high-quality production found in her students’ video, McCaffery never expected to win two years in a row, especially given the pool of powerful PSAs submitted.

The other schools that participated in the challenge were Bensalem High School, Central Bucks High School South, Conwell Egan Catholic, Council Rock High School North, New Hope-Solebury High School, Pennridge High School, Pennsbury High School, Truman High School and Villa Joseph Marie High School.

Small groups of students from each put their own spin on driver safety. Some took a more light-hearted approach, including the teens from Bensalem who promoted the message “Click It or Ticket” as old-timey music played in the background. Others, such as the four students from New Hope-Solebury, took a darker route. After the boy in the passenger seat refuses to put on his seatbelt because it’s “uncomfortable,” he’s killed in a crash. The video ends with the driver asking his friend’s lifeless body, “Are you comfortable now?”

“Year after year we continue to be amazed by the creativity these students are implementing to deliver such important and positive messages to their peers about teen driver safety,” said TMA Bucks acting executive director Steve Noll. “This was a very challenging year weather wise and to see 10 schools submit videos, matching the most ever, proves how dedicated our students in Bucks County are in wanting to make a difference.”

The Teen Driver Safety Video PSA Challenge is part of TMA Bucks’ Seatbelt Safety Challenge, which encourages student groups at each school to actively promote seat belt use among their peers. Since the initiative was first introduced in 2008, TMA Bucks has witnessed a steady increase in teen seatbelt use throughout the county. Over the span of 10 years, that number has climbed from 65 percent to 92 percent.

Each spring, the school with the highest overall seatbelt use and the school with the greatest percentage increase in seatbelt use are awarded trophy plaques and cash grants for safety-related projects. Winners for the Seatbelt Safety Challenge will be announced at a later date.

As the winner of the Teen Driver Safety Video PSA Challenge, Tennent’s media production department will receive a $500 grant and Abdulkareem and Nazaruk’s video will play on Comcast.

For more information and to view the video submissions, visit tmabucks.com/2017–18-teen-driver-safety-video-psa-challenge-submissions. ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com