Tony St. John, a Moffat County School Board member, speaks from the Moffat County High School auditorium stage Tuesday. St. John was a guest speaker at an assembly hosted by the student council called Our Time Day. He discussed the work he has done with the student council to renew a seatbelt awareness program at the high school.

Photo by Ben McCanna

Tony St. John, a Moffat County School Board member, speaks from the Moffat County High School auditorium stage Tuesday. St. John was a guest speaker at an assembly hosted by the student council called Our Time Day. He discussed the work he has done with the student council to renew a seatbelt awareness program at the high school.

MCHS assembly promotes good choices, seatbelt usage

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Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner stood on the Moffat County High School auditorium stage Tuesday and addressed a full house.

“I believe each of you make a choice for your future every time you buckle up,” Danner said. “Our son, Ryan Danner, chose one day not to wear a seatbelt.”

Ryan died in a car crash in August 1994.

“Consider your choices every time you get in a vehicle,” she said. “Please. It’s up to you. Make your choice.”

Choices were a recurring theme of Our Time Day, an all-school assembly Tuesday at MCHS.

The student council sponsored the event, which featured a 45-minute motivational video on unity, making good decisions and making a positive difference in the community.

The student council also unveiled its new seatbelt awareness program.

The seatbelt presentation included personal testimonies of loss and grief from Danner, Tony St. John, and Brenda and Chris Walsh.

The Walshes lost their 16-year-old son, Russell, in a single-vehicle crash in October 2010.

They stood behind a podium Tuesday fighting back tears.

Chris described the accident that claimed his son’s life.

“They weren’t even going 35, 40 miles an hour,” he said. “The right front tire blew and it was something they weren’t ready for.

“Anything can happen in an instant, and the best way you can prepare for that is to have your seatbelt on.”

The Walshes left the stage to a standing ovation.

Student council president Slade Gurr then took the stage to announce the council’s efforts to raise seatbelt awareness. Phase 1, he said, is a contest.

“We’d like to kick-off this program by hosting a competition to see which one of you can create a unique and innovative poster that promotes wearing a seatbelt every time you get into a motor vehicle,” he said.

Gurr said first-, second-, and third-place posters will be reproduced and hung throughout the high school for the rest of the school year. The winning artists will also receive Conoco gift cards valued at $50, $30 and $20, respectively.

The deadline for submission is Feb. 16.

The council will also revamp a rewards program that ended last year.

“Our council is in the process of establishing a student seatbelt patrol to replace the role that the Craig Police Department played,” Gurr said.

He was speaking of the Safety Belt Awareness Program that began in 1994 and ended last year.

The program, organized by St. John, local merchants and the police department, rewarded high school students for wearing seatbelts.

During the program’s 16-year existence, police officers would pull over students who were wearing seatbelts and reward them with gift certificates to local businesses.

However, a few drivers were inadvertently caught with illegal materials last year, so the police department ended the program to avoid legal issues surrounding probable cause.

After the death of Russell Walsh, St. John contacted the student council and asked them to continue the program. The council agreed.

However, Gurr said the program might not gain traction until the next school year.

“We figured we could phase it in this year and next year really hit hard with the seatbelt patrol and other programs, speakers and activities,” Gurr said.

In the meantime, the council is asking students and their families to sign a Peer Agreements for Community Transformation form.

Students who sign the PACT form agree to “reject the use of drugs and maintain all good safety practices as a passenger and driver.”

Delaine Brown, MCHS registrar and student council advisor, said each form requires signatures from three students and their families.

The group signatures promote positive peer pressure, Brown said.

“It’s more of a buddy system than just one person saying they’re going to do it,” she said.

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