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Hudson’s Bay students rise above the influence

Students at Hudson’s Bay High School are learning to resist the lure of cigarettes, alcohol, drugs and an equally dangerous behavior—distracted driving.

A prevention club called Above the Influence #Bay, advised by Prevention/Intervention Specialist Susan Peng-Cowan, is teaching their classmates how to adopt healthier lifestyles.

A dozen students have spent the school year taking action. They provided facts about cigarettes and drugs, helped local law enforcement agencies at a prescription drug take-back event and evaluated local retailers’ advertising displays and healthy food options.

Their culminating activity was a campaign to curb texting while driving. “It’s a serious issue, and it needs to be seriously looked at,” said club co-president Brissa Olivarez Garcia.

It’s also an issue that directly impacted the school in 2009, when popular teacher Gordon Patterson was killed by a distracted driver.

While the school’s current students were not enrolled at the time of Patterson’s death, the majority have been affected by the problem. A survey conducted by the club revealed that 77 percent of Bay students have been in a car with a driver who is texting.

With a $500 grant from State Farm, Above the Influence #Bay members created a brochure and posters bringing attention to the issue. One student wrote a poem that was shared during morning announcements; another authored an article on ways to prevent distracted driving.

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Above the Influence #Bay members at the Spring Youth Forum

The club also received one of just 37 scholarships available statewide to attend the Spring Youth Forum in mid-May. Six of the members presented the club’s distracted-driving campaign and networked with other youth prevention teams from around Washington, a “very influential” experience, said co-president Jennifer Lopez.

Next year, the club will continue to lead the way in healthy lifestyles, showing their classmates that everyone can rise above unhealthy influences.

(Top picture, from left: Sayra Arroyo-Patino, Jennifer Lopez, Annika Davila, Brissa Olivarez Garcia, adviser Susan Peng-Cowan, Maria Echevarria and Summer Ludahl pause for a photo below a quote from the late Gordon Patterson.)