Verrado High School senior Ambar Silvero was taken aback when a project she completed for her advanced placement (AP) government class turned into a campaign that gained support from her community and the attention of a local elected official.
Silvero presented her project, a bill known as Buckle Up, which requires passengers riding in the backseat of a motor vehicle to wear their seatbelts, at an unveiling ceremony at Verrado High School in March.
Now, Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, is considering sponsoring the bill in the Arizona State Senate.
But it was the near-death experience of a classmate whose car rolled over on campus in 2017 and the death of a Verrado alumnus involved in a car accident last year that first inspired Silvero, she said.
“I wanted to turn something that had been so negative around Verrado, because of what had gone on, into something potentially positive, where people are taking action in order to prevent these types of things from going on,” she said.
The rest of the students in her AP class, as well as the school, are also involved with the call to action. From graphic design and social media skills to community relations, students contribute to the cause in their own unique ways, said Guy Venegas, a senior who oversees the campaign’s broadcast team.
“We were able to get Key Club and NHS involved. They made us some super cool posters that say things like, ‘Buckle Up, Verrado.’ Just stuff that we can use around the school and help get the word out,” Venegas said. “If we can get at least one person to wear their seatbelts, we’ve accomplished our goal.”
Ten banners will be displayed in the school’s parking lot to remind students to wear their seat belts, said Erin Eisen, Verrado High School social studies teacher.
The Buckeye Police and Buckeye Fire departments, both of which attended the event, donated one of the signs, said Yesenia Smith, a student who wrote a letter asking the community for donations. The U.S. National Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Army also attended the event.
Initiatives like Buckle Up, a communitywide effort that originally started off in Eisen’s fifth-hour class, are important for the youth, Quezada said.
“The students are starting to realize what kind of power and influence they can have in our community. They can make huge changes at whatever levels of government they choose to get involved in. This was an excellent practice for them to actually understand that,” Quezada said.
The community coming together the way it did sends a strong message to the students, Quezada said.
“If they organize and they put something together, people will come out to support them. Whether it’s the police department, the fire department, elected officials, community members, they’re going to come out and support them,” he said.
Eisen’s students not only making a difference, but leaving a legacy – as she describes it – has helped her heal from her student’s death last year, she said.
“I don’t even know that I could begin to describe it. It’s a mixture of pride and exhaustion, and kind of a little bit of sadness, too, because of what inspired it,” she said.
“But I think that this is kind of what every government teacher wants at the end of their class, for students to understand that they do have a voice, and they can make a difference.”