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Fall 2022 Award Winner: One Tough Student Scholarship

Sara Schuster, Fall 2022 Award Winner

Sara Schuster

In her essay, Sara describes the experiences in her life that she was able to inspire and educate young students to drink safely. She encourages other student leaders to do the same. Sara also discusses an idea for an app that would help young adults to determine designated drivers amongst their friend group on a night out.

Read Sara's Essay:

At the young age of 19, my mother’s best friend Tommy was killed by a drunk driver, robbing him of his life and devastating his friends and family. From then on, my mother has spoken out against drunk driving and has encouraged me to serve as an activist against this as well. Every time I witness individuals who have a drink(s) and believe that it is alright to get behind the wheel of a vehicle, I think of the lives that have been lost and the families left behind to witness these sorts of murders continue to occur. In order to move towards preventative measures that could reduce drunk driving, I believe an app can be developed that tracks who will be the designated driver of the night and police presence around bars can be increased.

At my undergraduate institution, Austin College, I served as a resident assistant (RA) for two years where I served as a liaison between the Student Life department and the freshman class and served as a confidential contact and role model for my freshman cluster. As an RA, I would host monthly educational sessions for freshmen, multiple of which highlighted safe sex, safe drinking habits, and anti-drug education. I developed a system with my freshmen (and other Austin College students) that would help them track who’s turn it was to be the designated driver or sober friend for the night within their friend groups. While this can be done in your notes app, my friend, who is studying data analytics and application development, and I discussed the idea of developing an app that would track this for you and your friends. Furthermore, while we discussed the dangers of drinking and the illegality of drinking underage, our goal was to promote safe drinking if drinking was going to be done at all. By developing an app, determining who is sober driving becomes a random and fun establishment of responsibility. This app development is still a goal of ours, as we enter into our graduate programs and this idea is something we each utilize within our friend groups.

Overall, I have also viewed countless schools speak against drinking as a whole, and therefore, do not educate young adults about safe drinking habits. This leaves students curious and in-the-dark about alcohol, and when they inevitably encounter alcohol, they are ignorant to its effects. I encourage schools and organizations to add this type of education onto their established programs. While it is understandable to speak against underage drinking, for the safety of young adults, educating them about alcohol could help be preventative of cases of alcohol poisoning and drunk driving. Furthermore, I continually encourage other RAs, peer mentors, and upperclassmen to provide peer education supported by their real-world experience of drinking to underclassmen. As oftentimes, peer advice is more listened to and trusted than institutional education/training, especially for young adults.

At the societal level, I believe an increase in police presence around bars could help decrease the frequency of drunk driving. If the police are there to monitor the driving of those leaving closer to the bars, it could be preventative of fatal accidents that could potentially happen. In order to request such changes in police assignment and potentially governmental funding, this needs to be discussed with lawmakers/government officials and through spoken activism.

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