Young people today face realities that their parents and grandparents never comprehended. Computers, tablets, and smart phones have made our world a connected place, which has resulted in both positive and negative side effects. As a result, today’s PTA sometimes has to get creative with its advocacy work. Our featured advocate, Gabriel Unruh, did just that. Gabriel is a member of the Platte County High School PTSA in Platte City, MO, and is a graduating senior. After several injuries and deaths in his community and school from texting while driving, last year Gabriel took action to educate his peers on the dangers of distracted driving.
Gabe’s efforts resulted in an “Arrive Alive” event held in April 2013 in Kansas City, Missouri, that brought school, community and law enforcement groups together. The event offered students and community members an opportunity to evaluate personal driving habits, learn preferred safety habits of the road, and provided families free resources and information to improve their driving safety. More than 25 booths and exhibits featured an range of advocacy resources, safe driving interactive activities, and a powerful video message shown by the Missouri Highway Patrol. “Arrive Alive” was attended by over 1,000 high school students and community members, supported by over 25 local businesses and local governments, and was covered by all Kansas City metro news outlets.
To prepare for this event, Gabriel oversaw more than 100 volunteers; published numerous editorials on distracted driving in Kansas City local newspapers; and effectively used social media to promote the campaign. The event was such a success that local non-profit organizations and two neighboring districts approached Gabriel for this year’s efforts. Furthermore, Gabriel is in the process of submitting to the Missouri Department of Transportation an official action plan to create a model “Arrive Alive” program for schools across Missouri.
Gabriel’s work as a youth advocate resulted in him winning the 2014 National PTA Youth Advocacy Ambassador Award. Gabe will work throughout 2014 and early 2015 to promote PTA’s advocacy mission in his local community and beyond. He is speaking at this year’s Youth Summit, part of the 2014 National PTA annual convention, to talk with his peers about the importance of advocacy and its impact. Although Gabriel will be leaving Missouri this fall to attend American University in Washington, D.C., he plans to continue his advocacy work on behalf of PTA, and will incorporate it into his curriculum at American.
This is what Today’s PTA can accomplish!