The Safe Mobility Project, a collaboration between Akron Children’s and the Goodyear Foundation, recently awarded driving school scholarships to six teens who attend North High School and East Community Learning Center (CLC) in Akron, Ohio. The scholarships are for $400 and will cover each student’s enrollment at an Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV)-approved driving school.
Teenagers have the highest crash rates among all age groups and can benefit the most from driving instruction. In Ohio, people under 18 are required to complete a graduated driver licensing (GDL) program to get a driver license. But for some families, it’s a financial struggle to send their teen to a BMV-approved driving school where the average tuition is $400.
That is why the Safe Mobility Project expanded its Teen Safe Driving component, a program targeting youth ages 15 to 18, to include driving school scholarships.
“We have partnerships at North High School and East CLC,” said Erica Dovin, Akron Children’s injury prevention specialist. “Using these relationships, we worked with high school counselors, who knew which students had the greatest need and encouraged them to apply. Many of them had inspiring stories about the challenges they faced.”
Teens describe importance of obtaining a license
More than 20 students filled out an application for the scholarships. Students answered questions about why a license is important, plans after graduation and other details. Akron Children’s injury prevention team used a rubric as a scoring guide to evaluate and assess the applications. The six students were chosen and notified in December 2022.
In February, the injury prevention team met with the students to present their scholarships. The conversations shed more light on the teens’ goals and dreams. For instance, one student plans to work at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Another teen wants to be an entrepreneur and already runs a business. A third student comes from a big family and needs an after-school job to cover expenses.
Some teens cited the important classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction that are taught in a GDL program, a requirement that is less restrictive for people over 18. They want the extra safety training.
“If I can drive myself to and from school, it’s easier on my mom, who works night shift and doesn’t get much sleep,” wrote on student in the application. “If I obtain my license, I can take myself to and from school, learn how to be a safe driver and manage my driving anxiety.”
Two elementary students awarded bicycle gift certificates
In addition to the safe driving scholarships, two students received $400 gift certificates to purchase a new bicycle. They were among the children who attended a community event in December 2022 where they received bicycle helmets affixed with a QR code. Parents scanned the QR code and took a Safe Mobility Project survey with information about wheeled sports safety. By filling out the survey, the person’s child was eligible to win one of the Eddy’s Bike Shop gift certificates awarded.
The Safe Mobility Project’s goal is to protect the health and wellbeing of children ages birth through 18 as they travel throughout the communities that Akron Children’s serves. Education and involvement of the children and their families and community members are critical pieces of the project.
“Our focus has been to break down barriers and offer childhood injury prevention programs to children and their families in the places where they live, work and play,” said Heather Trnka, injury prevention coalition supervisor at Akron Children’s. “With the Goodyear Foundation’s continuing support, we’ve been able to grow the Safe Mobility Project’s educational programs and expand our reach throughout Medina, Portage, Summit, and Stark counties.”
Started in 2015, the program is entering phase 3, which runs from 2022 through 2024.