Safe Decisions Week is returning to Aurora Schools in September with a broader message and more community involvement.

Last year marked the first annual event in which the high school partnered with local State Farm Agent Sean Devins and Don Qualters from Balanced Asset Management to provide a week’s worth of activities and giveaways to encourage safe driving and an alcohol and drug free lifestyle, crescendoing to a “Grey Out” football game.

“It was a huge success. Throughout the week, the kids talked about how it was different than what we had done in the past and they felt like it was really accessible and something they could engage in. We had huge support from the community, and based on that feedback, we’re excited to do it again,” said Dr. Paul Milcetich, high school principal.

Following last year’s event, school officials and Devins met with student groups and community groups to determine how they could improve the event and make it more impactful.

Taking their input, this year’s event, set for Sept. 9-13, will allow community groups to have booths at the Safe Decisions Fair on Sept. 9 and tents at the Friday night football game Sept. 13 against Twinsburg. The week’s activities will also now include discussions and awareness of mental health, stress and vaping at a Think Fast Interactive Game show for high school students.

“We spread out the message to not just good decisions behind the wheel, but safe decisions in everything,” Devins said.

Throughout the week, middle school and high school students can show their commitment to making safe decisions by purchasing Safe Decisions T-shirts from the high school Student Council, advised by Shelly Dirda and Kathy Wiemken. Proceeds will likely go toward a cause of the student council’s choosing.

The Drug Free Club, which was started last year and is advised by Melissa Foster and Stephanie Duncan, will also play a large role with several members already committing to help out throughout the week.

Students can also make pledges to make safe decisions by signing the “I Promise to make Safe Decisions” banner that will be on display at the Sept. 13 football game, making their own Safe Decisions dog tags, and putting a hand print on a monster truck that will be at the high school on Sept. 10.

Organizers are especially hoping to catch the attention of high school freshmen and seniors.

“You have a class that is all new drivers, and you also have a class of seniors that have a tendency to think of this as their free wild year. We want to get them early in the year, and be impactful with having everyone come together for a football game,” Devins said.

The football game against Twinsburg coincides with Aurora Schools Employee Night, Aurora Youth Football Night and City of Aurora Employee Night. Students and staff are encouraged to wear their Safe Decisions T-shirts and the football team will be wearing Safe Decisions jerseys that were purchased last year.

“When we first started doing these programs, they were stand-alone programs where we would have a speaker come in, but it was more of a one and done. This is so much more than that because it includes the Friday night program for the entire community. There’s nothing that’s more of a community event than a Friday night football game,” Superintendent Pat Ciccantelli said.

According to Devins, several other State Farm agents heard about Aurora’s event, and this year 21 other school districts, including ones in Pennsylvania and Illinois, will be holding their own Safe Decisions Week this fall. 

Reporter Krista S. Kano can be reached at 330-541-9416, kkano@recordpub.com or on Twitter @KristaKanoRCedu. 

Here’s a look at this year’s Safe Decisions Week at Aurora Schools, Sept 9-13. Additionally, Student Council will be selling camouflage and grey T-shirts all week during lunch periods.

Sept. 9

Aurora High School Staff wears Safe Decisions T-shirts

Safe Decisions Fair at the high school gymnasium during lunch periods: simulated driving car track (University Hospitals), ARDDES distracted car simulator (PEERS Foundation), free Cleveland Aquarium tickets and giveaways (Drug Free Club), games and giveaways (Portage County Safe Communities), simulated marijuana goggles cornhole (Aurora Police Department), make your own dog tags (Drug Enforcement Agency), walk the line and spin the wheel (Portage County Sheriff)

Sept. 10

Activities outside the high school cafeteria during lunch: 18-wheeler truck (State Farm Share the Road), clandestine tactical and educational truck with agents (DEA and FBI), “I Promise” monster truck

Sept. 12

Thick Fast Interactive Game Show in the high school auditorium

Sept. 13

Grey Out pep rally at Aurora High School

Aurora vs. Twinsburg Safe Decisions/Grey Out football game at the AHS stadium: custom Safe Decisions football uniforms, helicopter fly over, DJ booth, Drug Free Club giveaway car, Safe Decisions tents, Aurora Schools Employee Night, Aurora Youth Football Night, City of Aurora Employee Night.