MACEDONIA — High School senior Kendal Mozina donned the fatal vision goggles and tried to navigate a course of traffic cones set up in the gym on a pedal-powered four-wheel Roadster.
It turned out to be more challenging than Kendal thought it would be.
"I didn’t think it was going to be that hard," Kendal said afterwards. "It was harder than I thought, I kept running into the cones."
This was one of several activities students were encouraged to participate in last week as part of a weeklong series of events throughout the Nordonia Hills School district aimed at steering students into making safe decisions.
Safe Decisions Week ran Oct. 15 through 19, and was sponsored by the district, State Farm and Ohio Sports Chiropractic & Rehab. The Summit County Sheriff’s Office, University Hospitals and Akron Children’s Hospital also assisted with educational activities.
The week culminated Oct. 19 with a pep rally toward the end of the school day and the unveiling of the football players’ new uniforms, which were paid for and sponsored by Jill Gaba State Farm and Ohio Sports Chiropractic, that were used during the Black-Out for Safety theme in that night’s game against North Royalton. The Knights beat North Royalton 63-50. The pep rally ended with a drawing for prizes.
Gaba said these uniforms will be used in future Black-Out for Safety games to promote safe decisions such as not driving distracted. The uniforms were custom designed by the coaching staff.
The events seem to have an impact with the students. For example, Senior Gurleen Multani, 17, said after looking through a pair of virtual reality goggles and seeing various scenarios play out, she began to understand why some of the actions she had witnessed, such as taking pictures while driving, are dangerous.
"I feel like some of the these they were showing, I was a part of that or saw it," Gurleen said. "I understand how dangerous it is."
Gaba said the virtual reality glasses were sponsored by Akron Children’s Hospital.
"I tell my kids that nobody should be on Snapchat when they are driving," Gaba said.
Angela Hawsman, who assisted with a Halloween-themed activity where students were instructed to throw rubber rats into a black plastic cauldron wearing a set of fatal vision goggles, explained the goggles reflected various stages of alcohol impairment. For example, the goggles used at this game showed the impact on coordination for someone whose BAC was between .17 and .20 percent, or more than twice the legal limit.
"I think it’s wonderful the school took the time to participate," Hawsman said. "It gives kids a whole perspective on drinking and driving, and distracted driving."
So, did anyone manage to get a rat into the cauldron?
"Just one," Hawsman said. "We had 750 do this at the Carnival of Horrors at Blossom Music Center, and only four made it."
The high school was not the only building that had activities that week. Ledgeview Elementary schools focused on safe decisions as passengers in a car, making healthy choices, bike and helmet safety, fire safety and Stranger Danger. Northfield Elementary School will learn about "PAWS-itive Character," "Rocking out Responsible Choices", "Respect myself and others", "It’s NO SWEAT to make Safe Decisions!" and "Stay in the Drug-free Spirit".
Rushwood Elementary School will learn about making tough choices, breathing for relaxation and calming, what happens to sugar in the body, practicing compassion, and body awareness and mindfulness. Lee Eaton will learn about using mindfulness to de-stress, information about e-cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and how to be a safe passenger. The Middle School will focus on making healthy and safe decisions, with announcements and posters created by Youth2Youth.
The Nordonia Youth 2 Youth program assisted with the event and proceeds from T-shirt sales will fund their annual retreat.
Students also were asked to sign a banner at each school pledging they would avoid driving while distracted. The banner read "I pledge to make safe decisions in my life."
Samua Azevedo of Ohio Sports Chiropractic said she was happy with the inaugural event.
"It’s gone really well," Azevedo said. "A lot of them have done the pledges. They were surprised how poorly they drove when impaired."
Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @AprilKHelms_RPC