Social media videos from law enforcement and community members seek to reassure graduating seniors
CLARK COUNTY — Hilary Torres was leading a workshop class on driving safety at Prairie High School less than two months ago. An announcement came over the loudspeaker. “School will be closed in 10 minutes. We’ll see you in a month.”
That month has since grown into the remainder of the school year, as we all know, and no one has been hit harder by the closure than graduating seniors. Torres, who runs the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) program, Target Zero, for Clark and Skamania counties, wants to make it easier for them.
“I realized the potential that these students who are graduating, they were going to have a very different experience,” Torres said. “What an unconventional time they’re going to have, and just the idea of the summer, this landmark occasion not being recognized, how would that affect them? It just seemed appropriate to give a platform to law enforcement and anyone in traffic safety that wanted to wish these students well and encourage them to be safe and enjoy this season.”
Target Zero is a WTSC program with the goal of eradicating traffic fatalities and serious injuries in the state of Washington by 2030. Through social media campaigns and funds which can be used for many joint projects with agencies and area governments, Target Zero brings awareness to distracted, drunk and reckless driving dangers.
The summer is often a very dangerous time for graduating seniors and high schoolers in general who are new to driving, Torres said. This time of year they are already on her mind, so she decided to create a social media video campaign to encourage them.
Torres and her team have already created several of the videos and plan to film, socially distanced, and collect many more from law enforcement, area leaders, business owners, and parents.
“I would love to have community partners. We have Jeremiah Stephen, who is a State Farm agent. He has a big family of his own, he’s going to be doing one,” Torres said. “I’ll be interviewing him on Monday, or posting his on Monday. Any community members that feel compelled to share a message of encouragement and safety, really. I am hoping to get a couple of businesses.”
If you would like to send a message of encouragement to the graduating Class of 2020, you can email Torres at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Even KGW’s popular weatherman Rod Hill created a poignant message. He still has his high school diploma, as it turns out, and he shared how important he believes this moment to be for graduating seniors; virus or no virus.
“I’m so privileged to be able to take this moment and say congratulations to all the seniors in the Class of 2020! What a special moment in your life this is,” Hill said in his Facebook video. “I know, things aren’t the way you were thinking they would be; the graduation ceremony you’ve been dreaming about. But none of that takes away from this huge accomplishment, something that you may not realize today, how very proud you will be of in the years to come.”
Torres explained how she hopes to start a ripple effect with more organizations with platforms doing something similar to encourage the Class of 2020. The Target Zero task force, which is composed of law enforcement and educators, as well as leaders, care about the young driver, Torres said.
“I think the message really is that parents, adults care. They care about their safety, and they care about their mental health. So if we can share that message with these students and these young adults at this unusual juncture, why not?,” Torres said. “I think everybody should be doing it, and anybody who has a platform, just taking a moment to say, ‘We got your back, we’re here for you and everything’s gonna be okay.’”