Two northern Hillsborough County high schools — Steinbrenner and Leto — are among 45 statewide receiving grants to support safe-driving campaigns.
The $1,000 grants are awarded annually by Students Against Destructive Decisions, with support from State Farm. SADD is a national school-based, peer-to-peer prevention, education and activism organization.
Hillsborough County sheriff's Deputy Anthony Bennett, Steinbrenner's resource officer since the school opened in 2009, said some of the grant went to promote and launch a SADD chapter, where monthly meetings draw 15 to 20 students.
"The first thing we did was promote Battle of the Belts," a countywide public safety campaign and competition among high schools, stressing seatbelt use, Bennett said.
Steinbrenner finished second in two components of that competition after a multi-day survey by Tampa General Hospital nurses found 98 percent of students in vehicles leaving the Steinbrenner campus were using seatbelts, Bennett said.
The school plans to bring in a speaker to emphasize to students the dangers of driving while texting or under the influence of alcohol or other substances. "We're definitely going to participate in the texting campaign," hopefully achieving the success of the seatbelt program, Bennett said.
At Leto, "Our student government and SADD chapter applied for the grant. This is the second year in a row we've earned it," said Kimberly Garcia who, until her recent transfer, was SADD chapter co-sponsor, along with the school resource officer, Deputy Pedro Colon.
"We do seatbelt checks; we had a texting pledge dinner where students pledge they will not text and drive," Garcia said. Chapter members also did a "chalk the block" campaign. "We take sidewalk chalk and write messages all over (the parking lot) reminding students to buckle up, be safe, don't text and drive," she said.
"At Leto we are very serious about our safe-driving message," Garcia said.