Fulda students headed for Washington for national event
FULDA -- Early this morning, junior Maddie Kaufman and sophomore Marissa Kunerth, sophomore, both members of Fulda High School's Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), will step on a plane to Washington, D.C, for the National Organizations for Youth Safety's (NOYS) three-day Teen Distracted Driving Prevention Summit.
NOYS is a collaboration of more than 60 national, youth-serving organizations with the common goal of promoting safe and healthy behaviors among the nation's youths.
The NOYS summit teaches about distracted driving and empowers participants to address distracted driving in their communities.
Kunerth hadn't planned to accompany Kaufman on the trip. Kaufman originally applied for the NOYS summit with Taylor Kenney, but Kenney had already been cast as the Tin Man in Fulda High School's production of "The Wizard of Oz," which is also this weekend.
"I had already committed to the play, and I didn't want to let the cast down," Kenney said.
When Kenney decided she wouldn't be able to go, Kunerth was asked to take her place. While it was a difficult decision, Kenney is confident that she made the right one.
To participate in the summit, Kaufman and Kenney submitted an essay. Its content included what they had done in their community to reduce texting while driving; what they would like to see done in their school, community and state in the future to address distracted driving; and how other states' distracted driving rules and regulations compare.
"We were selected as one of 12 groups of two in the nation to go to the summit," Kaufman said.
Kaufman and Kunerth are excited about the trip, as well as the opportunity to meet peers from around the nation who are also interested in preventing distracted driving.
"All the speakers and activities sound really interesting," Kunerth said.
To prepare for the trip, the two girls had three telephone conference calls that covered the logistics of their time in Washington.
"We talked about dress code, airport pick-up -- things like that," Kunerth said.
This is the second year that Kaufman has done a project with NOYS. Last year, she and her project partner designed a T-shirt and billboard, and also created a Facebook page. That project was nationally recognized, and the Fulda FCCLA received a $2,000 award.
During the summit, Kaufman and Kunerth will participate in informative presentations, interactive activities and educational training, all to help them share what they learned about texting while driving with other youths.
While in Washington, they will work with other participants to develop an action plan to reduce teen distracted driving in Fulda. The girls will use what they learned to organize and lead a distracted driving rally in May.
"We will take what we learned in Washington back to our community to do a rally with our student body," Kaufman said.
"I am a teen myself and, going through driving classes, you see how many lives are affected by distracted driving each year," she continued.
"It takes so many lives. We need to focus on getting it under control," Kunerth added.
The girls are also looking forward to doing a night tour of the capital while there.
"It's been fun going through the process and getting this great opportunity to go to Washington," Kaufman said. "We are excited and are looking forward to meeting kids from around the country and to learn more about texting and driving."
"I'm excited to see all the new things. It will be a new experience," Kunerth said.
FCCLA is a nonprofit national student organization that helps students prepare for roles as family members, wage earners and community leaders.
Daily Globe Reporter Alyson Buschena may be reached at